If you have been hanging around these parts for a while, you know that the model for this site is to tell you what the Rays have done, what they are doing and try to project what they will do based on what we have learned. Think of RI as “Tampa Bay Rays 101.”

However, for the next 12 days we will step away from the standard, and we present to you 12 “presents” the Tampa Bay Rays should give to their fans. Looking back at last year’s 12 Days of Raysmas, we see that many of our wishes came true (including that sweet no-hitter), and the result was another division title.

Without further ado…

On the fourth day of Raysmas, the Tampa Bay Rays gave to us, FOUR JP Howell…

The Rays bullpen was lights out last year. But with just about everybody gone, Andrew Friedman may have his toughest task yet in rebuilding that unit. One player Joe Maddon will lean heavily on is JP Howell. But when?

The Rays have already announced Howell will start the season on the DL. Howell promised he would be ready very soon after opening day. But knowing the Rays, they will be very cautious with his recovery.

We would be shocked if Howell was pitching any games before May. And we would be a little surprised if he was back with the Rays before June.

That leaves four months for The Dude to do what The Dude do. That is, cleaning up messes left by the starting pitchers in the 7th and 8th innings. If Howell can abide for four months, that will go a long ways to solidifying a ragtag group of relievers.



  1. phil says:

    They do need 4 months of JP ..they play the yankees and red sox 8 times combined in April thru June …30 times in July thru september

  2. a.j. says:

    I think they’ll try to get by with peralta in the 7th or 8th til JP gets back. But we definitely need him back to what he was before his injury. I’m hoping he comes back strong, but you never know with shoulders…they’re tricky. Not everyone is what benoit was. It’s why I believe we need to add a guy like Rauch to add stability to the back end of the pen. Some people are saying to move Niemann to the pen which I totally disagree with. He was among the league leaders in quality starts, and pitched well his last two starts to show he can still start. Moving him to the pen would be a mistake, IMO. He’s a proven quality #3 pitcher on a very good staff! You don’t put him in the pen.

  3. Don says:

    James Shields would be the best reliever of the 6 starters we have…when he starts.. he pitches good/ok for 3/4 innings then hitters figure out his junk stuff… then bombs away….
    Looks like middle relief…then we have 5 “solid” starters!

  4. a.j. says:

    To be perfectly honest, I think we make a trade of Shields during ST. Then, its all a moot point about Niemann going to the pen. There’s really no justification for Niemann to go to the pen at all. He experienced shoulder discomfort, came back too early (even he said so himself), then finished the season strong. Are you telling me that you’d rather have Shields in your rotation over Niemann?! Everyone was pissed when we went with Shields over Niemann in the playoffs. So what decision makes more sense? Trade Shields or put Niemann in the pen?

    • Derek says:

      The shoulder pain didnt seem to affect Davis all that much. Id rather just trade Niemann, but thats just me. This wasnt the first time Niemann has been hurt either. He had surgery in 05. Shields and Hellboy are a lot alike, and we saw how good Hellboy was out of the pen. The big guy just seems to be the odd man out. Going forward, I see Davis having the better future. Shields probably wont be effective out of the pen, and Hellboy has earned his spot. Trade Garza or Niemann, or send Niemann to the pen.

      • Tone says:

        Why would you rather trade Garza or Nieman over Shields? Nieman was an amazing starting pitcher who should have gotten a couple rehab starts after the DL but didn’t. Nieman has been a much better starting pitcher than Davis so far. I don’t think Davis was really injured that bad, they were just protecting his innings in my opinion. Davis and Nieman should both stay in the rotation. Nieman is cheap and effective, Shields is expensive and garbage. The chatter about trading Garza or Nieman is insane, hopefully it’s just a red herring for when they trade Shields. We have Garza for 3 more years, why trade him now? Shields will just lower his value more this year and starting pitching is scarce right now; so now is the best time to unload that batting practice machine.

  5. phil says:

    i just believe to compete in the AL east we need a quality closer and there are none available as a free agent unless we get Rafel back on a one year deal.. So with 6 starters can one of the take the closer role?

    if sheilds can do it ..great!

  6. a.j. says:

    You’re the only one talking about Davis! I never brought him into this conversation! Maddon was very clear that his postseason rotation was set by who threw better at home. And he also wanted Shields’ postseason experience in game 2. Anyhow, I like Wade Davis! I think he’s a great #4 with potential to be a 2 or 3 in a year or two. But right now, I’ll take my rotation as the following:
    Price, Garza, Niemann, Davis, Hellickson.
    Don made a point about putting Shields in as the closer…not actually a bad idea! He has swing-and-miss stuff (look at the numbers) and he has an F U mentality that many closers have. And his contract would actually pay him as a valuable closer in today’s market! I see some plusses here, Don!
    Now, Phil…is there anything else you want to mention about Davis? Since I never said anything bad about him? Maybe you’d like to make it seem like I hate Hellboy too…

  7. phil says:

    Aj – I just suggested Davis as a closer ..but maybe Don is right about putting Shields back there …I am looking for the best combo of 5 starters and one closer ..the five you mentioned are the best starters ..and if shields can close ..great I am happy….

    by the way what did i mention about Davis other than to suggest he might make a good closer…i too think davis can be a # 2 or 3 but to compete you need quality 8th/9th inning pitchers too..remember last year?

  8. a.j. says:

    I am man enough to apologize. I’m sorry. However, I don’t think we’re as far off as some people think. There are a couple guys available that can do a serviceable job on the open market…Balfour, Rauch, Gregg, Fuentes…so they’re out there. Not to mention, whose to say McGee isn’t closing by June? That kid has some serious stuff. I also like this Russell guy. He could be a Balfour-type for us. My personal opinion is to trade Shields, if we choose to make move of that nature…and sign Rauch to be the closer/setup man. Maybe we could put a package together with Shields, Torres, and another solid prospect for Billy Butler?! He’d be a nice piece in the middle of the lineup to create a combo with Longo!

    • phil says:

      apology accepted…would love to see balfour back .and if Mcgee can close by june and shields handles the closer role until june…we get jp howell back too ..we could have a heck of a bullpen to go along with a heck of rotation….I like Russell and Peralta too! very interesting!

  9. Don says:

    No one will pay Shields contract off his recent performance(s)
    Another reason ($) to put him in the bullpen..an area we need experience…. and eat his contract for now!

  10. phil says:

    by july 1st the bullpen could be: Shields/ jp howell/ Balfour/ McGee/Peralta/Russell/Sonny

    rotation of price/ garza/ niemann/ davis/ hellickson..

    Alternatives: Torres instead of McGee ..start McGee in AAA to get ready for 2012 when Garza is traded….If not Balfour then he could be replaced by Ramos (from the bartlett trade) or another free agent

  11. a.j. says:

    I think a team like the Nationals would take a guy like Shields. I really don’t wanna be too negative on Shields cuz he has been pretty reliable, just not the last 16 months. He’s an innings eater that would probably do very well in a big ballpark and the NL (I.e.- Washington). And though he didn’t live up to it last year, he does have big game experience. I think we should see how he starts in ST, then take the best offer possible. We could possibly get a young bat to help in the near future by trading him. Or as I said before, someone like KC that’s looking for some turnaround in their franchise by overhauling some things, may be willing to take a vet like Shields in a package for Butler.

  12. a.j. says:

    Where’s the logic in comparing one person’s shoulder pain to another?! That’s ridiculous! Yes, he had surgery 5 years ago…after he was overused in college, as is the case with many Rice pitchers! And how do you say that Shields and Hellboy are the same? One has pinpoint control with all his pitches (Hellboy) and the other just with 2 pitches. For all we know, Shields could be the second coming of Trevor Hoffman…or he may be traded…but I don’t see us trading Niemann, who has done nothing to lose his spot in the rotation for the foreseeable future.

    • Derek says:

      If youre replying to someone. You should use the reply button. When shields is at his best he uses his control to get hitters out. Thats all im saying when comparing the two. It helps to have a great fast ball in the pen, and neither have that. Plus, Shields gives up a lot of fly balls. Thats not good for someone you want to close out games for you. I think Niemann’s value is at an all time high, unlike Shields, who’s value is at an all time low. Im not comparing their pain, but they did come off the DL at the same time. Thats all I know. How do you assume Wade’s was nothing more than an innings thing? He threw 20 more innings in 09 than last year. So I doubt they were limiting him. Price threw 80 more in 10 than 09.

  13. a.j. says:

    Can I just say I love Raysmas?! It brings such great debate! I know many of us have disagreed but its been fun to talk about! 4 years ago we were trying to figure out how awful we were going to be, and praying that we’d sign someone like a Nick Johnson just because maybe it could work! Now, we’re talking about having too much starting pitching, and discussing which true professional hitter we can bring in-Thome or Damon! And we’ve cut the payroll a ton, but we’re still going to have a competitive team on the field! I know not everyone will agree with me on this but kudos to Stu and Friedman! They’ve done a nice job of putting very competitive teams on the field at a fraction of the payroll of the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, and other big spenders. They deserve more credit than we all give!

  14. robert says:

    Forget the pitching, folks. We need bats, big bats…

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