The “Dude” Put on the Shelf Until May


Rays 2010 photo day |
Getty Images

Dude, Got to tell you this recent news is really killing the positive Rays aura of a great Friday night beat down here in Port Charlotte of the New York Yankees split squad. And it was made special by the Rays committing to doing the little things tonight as the Rays produced runs little by little to take the Rays to their Major League Baseball leading 12th win of the Spring.

But the news that really threw my karma karma chameleon into a blender was the sound bytes heard from field level that Rays reliever J P Howell could possibly missing almost a month of the 2010 season due to some shoulder weakness. It really bummed me out totally for the game and had me sneaking around looking for answers than watching the game in progress in front of me. And I did find some answers, but they are not the one I wanted to hear….Bummer man.

So here I am sitting in a small wings and things joint just a mile from Charlotte Sport Park and more than a few fellow Rays fans have also expressed some worry and concern and a bit of frustration that “the Dude” will be delayed in his smiling flight nightly out to the Rays Bullpen. But considering all the innings (66.2 innings) and appearances (69), not including Howell’s Bullpen stint with the USA squad during last season’s World Baseball Classic.

In reality, only fellow Rays reliever Dan Wheeler has put in almost as much innings (124.0 innings) and appearances (139) than Howell’s last two years ( 156.0 innings) and appearances (133) that easily shows that the “Dude” has put in some vicious overtime in during the last two Rays seasons. And in reality, even with his increase in appearances, he did decrease his total innings by almost 23 innings in 2009.

But Wheeler has been a reliever for most of his MLB career, and was just one appearance shy of making his fifth straight 70 game appearance seasonal mark. Wheeler was trained to be a reliever for the last 9 seasons. The last time Wheeler even started more than 1 game a season was in 1999 when he was originally with the Rays.

April2009 |
Chris O’Meara/ AP

Howell came from the Rays starter ranks not even two seasons ago, and maxed out himself in 2008 both during the season, and hitting the mound sick in Game 5.5 of the 2008 World Series. The “Dude” is a gamer people who doesn’t let minor obstacles get in his way, but this one situation got him firmly by the shoulder’s and let him know…

something is wrong. When the Rays first opened camp this Spring, I was down in Port Charlotte and saw the now dark-haired Howell throwing on that first day, but something caught my eye. Sure he might have been throwing softly like most of the Rays pitchers’ that first workout, but the arm angle looked a bit…well, off to me. I didn’t think much of it being the first workout and expecting some of the guys to just toss it lightly and get back in the flow within the next week.

But the second time I was down in Port Charlotte, Howell also had stepped it up a bit, but it did not seem right to me. I had watch him throw in the Rightfield corner over the last two season’s worth of Sundays, and something did not seem right. But then again, the whole time Howell has been with the Rays, he has not been known to blow away a radar gun with his pitches.


So when the Rays announced prior to the end of tonight’s game that the team would discuss further the possibilities of maybe delaying his Spring debut, it did not throw shockwaves through me, but I felt more of an air of caution by the team with the announcement. And you know that Howell is the perfect Rays “company man” for the Rays.

If Rays Manager Joe Maddon or Pitching Coach Jim Hickey told Howell to go out onto the mound and do the “Hokey Pokey” before he pitched, Howell would because the “Dude” is a total team type of guy.


And maybe this weekend was suppose to be Howell’s time to show everyone that his 2009 late season shutdown was just to let him chill a bit and regain some of that snap to his curveball again in 2010. I heard prior to the game tonight from a Rays player revealing to me that “Howell was not in uniform tonight, and might not be this weekend at all.” That revelation in itself told me something was wrong, so I went looking for Rays Medical Guru Ron Porterfield. Instead of finding Porterfield, I stumbled upon some interesting information.

Spring Training 2009 |
Pat Manfredo/ Rays fan

It seemed that Howell when he first reported to the Rays this Spring showed some weakness early in strength and endurance testing and that the team decided to take a slow path and let him gain the necessary shoulder muscle and strength back before advancing in his workout program. Also Howell could tell something was off, but could not put a finger on the situation at the time. And Howell has since been examined by Dr Koko Eaton, the Rays orthopedic specialist, but I could not get a confirmation on his consult.


But I think the Rays are being smart here. Why ruin a perfectly good left-hander so early in the process when you could shut him down and get him healthy through rehabbing and specialized workouts to bring him back within 4 weeks or possibly before May 1,2010. Howell is valuable as a reliever who can face both left and right-handed hitter with success, and to rush him back to the team could jeopardize more than just Howell overall health, it could put a huge crimp in the Rays overall seasonal plans for the Rays Bullpen.
So for a bit the “Dude” will just chill and follow doctors orders before maybe starting a minor league rehab assignment in the middle of April with the Rays throwing out a possible Saturday, May 1st target date for his 2010 debut. That would work out to be during a Rays home stand where both Oakland and Kansas City will come to town before the Rays leave on a West Coast 10-game road trip against Seattle, Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels.

Howell is a valuable and rare relieving commodity to the Rays, and losing him for a possible 30-plus day stint could be tricky, but it is not impossible. Both with only current leftie specialist Randy Choate as the only other left-hander in the Bullpen, could this open the door for pitcher Carlos Hernandez or maybe Heath Phillips getting a longer Rays look past Spring Training as left-handed insurance policies?


We still have time to decide this, but the Rays have worked with only one leftie before in their Bullpen, but that was former Ray Trever Miller. And it is a bit of bummer that some are questioning that Howell’s off season workout program might be to blame for this ailment. Considering the guy got married this off season and went to Bora Bora, hopefully rowing in that canoe did not do damage to his shoulder.
Seriously, this put a damper in the relieving corps, but it is not unfixable since there is still time, and the Rays have viable options in-house to counter the injury. The good thing is the Rays did not greet Howell with a plane ticket to Birmingham, Alabama to see Dr James Andrew. That in itself should be Rays fans stoked that the “Dude” will be back soon pointing to fans and just chilling on the Rays Bullpen bench…Catch ya later Dudes!


It always better to miss at the start of the season than the end, I hope he makes his appearance when the Rays are at the Trop, cause you know with a nickname like the DUDE he’s gonna have an impact on the rest of the season…

Outside the Phillies Looking In

You got to be rooting for a Cali guy who went to the University of Texas and took the Longhorns strikeout record from Roger Clemens.
But he is also a great guy who found his niche in the Bullpen instead of starting, and it will extend his Major League Baseball career.
Considering he got married this offseason I can see a bit of re-prioritizing would maybe adjust your off season workouts a bit.
Hopefully this is all and there is no surgery involved because Tampa Bay needs the “Dude.”

Rays Renegade

As I was reading this post, I was thinking, at least Renegade didn’t mention Dr. Andrews! So I had to smile when I came to the last paragraph. You’re so right – as long as nobody is talking about surgery, maybe rest and strengthening is all the Dude needs, and the pen will be just fine.

How can I forget the famous doctor.
I actually got a ticket to Birmingham in 1984 while playing college ball for a possible rotator cuff injury, but I was not going to be tossing the ball in the MLB or the NFL, so I let it go….and I was a leftie too.
Howell said today that his X-rays were better than he himself expected, and tho he is “bummed” he will miss the start of the season, he will be there soon in 2010.
Got to love the “dude”, both Howell and Jeff Bridge’s “Big Lewbowski” character.

Rays Renegade

The good news is that with all that time off, the Dude will have plenty of time for White Russians. Mmmm. Sounds good. Think I’ll make one myself!

That is a bummer. We just got the news today that Wood could miss two months. Let’s hope “Dude” heals quickly!

Why is it I knew out of all the people I knew you would pull the “Big Lewbowski” card.
Hey, I like White Russians, I drink then and I am one.
Howell today used the analogy today of a ship leaving port and he would just have to work harder and swim harder to get to it…Loved it….showed the “Dude” had a sharp mind tucked away under that Rays cap.

Rays Renegade

That rots!! There’s something about injury before the start of a season that makes it especially deflating. Just keep him away from Mets doctors.

I know your team already lost reliever Jason Grilli and Russell Branyan’s rehab has been put on a bit of a snail’s pace since his back is not reacting to exercises and medications right now.
But the addition of closer Kerry Woods to the situation shows us just how fragile this month can be to teams’s 2010 dreams and goals.
Hopefully a good solution can be found, and things can get back on track for both our teams.

Rays Renegade

I do not think there is any chance of any Rays player to get around the Met’s staff unless they hurt in a game on the Florida East Coast……and by what has happened in your organization, that might be a perfect thing.
Could be worse, could have the problems Clevelnad has been hit with in the last few weeks.

Rays Renegade

Dude is not a dud, so he will be fine.
Best part is the Rays medical staff is considered one of the better ones in the MLB, do we got that going for us…which is good.
I have noticed there is a weird epidemic of injuries lately.
hopefully the injury bug will not hit any team real hard before they get a chance to show what they got in 2010.

Rays Renegade

Lots of injuries in all camps. Hopefully the Dude will recover quickly.

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