With the loss of JP Howell for the year, the Rays are left with Randy Choate as the only lefty in the bullpen. So the natural reaction is to think the Rays will go out and find a cheap lefty in the trade market. Maybe not

Clubs that have spoken with the Rays say they don’t expect Tampa Bay to react to J.P. Howell’s season-ending shoulder surgery by running out and trading for bullpen help.

“They’re already past that,” said an executive of one club. “They’ve already got the [Randy] Choate factor going, and the [Lance] Cormier factor, and the [Andy] Sonnanstine factor. They’re like Minnesota getting past losing [Joe] Nathan. That team has so much character and it’s so focused, they just deal with it.”

Down the road, the Rays might hunt around for another left-handed reliever. And “They’d love to add a couple of power arms in the ‘pen,” the same executive said. But in the short term, they’re second in the league in bullpen ERA. And opponents are hitting .215 against that bullpen. So this is a team in no hurry to make a deal.

The Rays do have RJ Swindle and Heath Phillips at triple-A Durham. But Swindle just came off the DL and Phillips has never been particularly tough on lefties.

And of course there is a guy in double-A Montgomery named Jake McGee. He is still being used as a starter, but in his last four appearances he hasn’t been allowed to pitch past the fourth inning. This suggests that the Rays have already started the transition to relief pitcher.

So maybe the Rays are confident with what they have. But if they do need to make a change, there are options from within.



  1. Thad says:

    For whatever reason, the columnists in Tpa/St Pete make it sound like the loss of JP Howell has just doomed the season (Romano a few days ago and now Fennelly).

    (Fennelly just piled on a few hours ago -- http://www2.tbo.com/content/2010/may/20/howells-loss-will-be-felt-mound-clubhouse-rays/sports/)

    But, if you assume (a fair amount of IFs, but nothing unattainable at this point):

    A) The Rays rotation stays healthy
    B) The Rays rotation generally continues to pitch into the 6th inning and beyond on most days
    C) The Rays keep winning and remain comfortably positioned throughout the summer for at least the wildcard spot
    D) Benoit continues to stay healthy and becomes the 8th inning bridge
    E) Balfour, Wheeler and Choate remain fresh and sharp (nothing earthshattering, but reasonably expected performance)

    Then, then, come playoff time the Rays have even MORE options in the pen than they do today to make up for the loss of JP Howell. The rotations shorten to four or even sometimes three starters, which probably moves Niemann and/or Davis to the pen.

    • Sarah says:

      How urgent it is to replace Howell partly depends on how important it is to have, specifically, a lefty reliever, as all the options you mention are righties (or at least the ones I know of -- I don't know the minor leagues guys).

  2. Brian H says:

    romano sucks, they resent the fact that the rays and baseball in this town is drawing more attention than they are used to compared to football. if you dont believe me watch shelton on baynews9, interview wtih him and someother guy discussing that.

    his passionate argument is that the attendance shows that the bucs still have way more interest than rays in this area. nowhere citing the tv ratings. not to mention the difference between 162 games in a season compared to 16.


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