The Return of J.P. Howell

Two very important things stand to happen in tomorrow night’s Rays-Marlins game.

1) Besides the obvious—it’s J.P. Howell, for cripes sake—adding one of the best relievers in baseball during 2008-2009 to this bullpen is a satisfying idea. If Howell can return to form—and it’s far from a guarantee—then the backend of the Rays bullpen looks intriguing. A foursome of Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, J.P. Howell, and Cesar Ramos coming together to get the final nine-to-12 outs looks worthwhile.

As difficult as it is to judge rehab performances through statistics, Howell’s are encouraging—what, with nine strikeouts and two walks in seven innings between High-A and Triple-A. Here is hoping Howell can return to chilling games as he did during the good ol’ days, because what a weapon he is at his best. I would guess Rob Delaney will return to Triple-A Durham to make room for Howell.

2) Guess which player (likely to be in the Rays lineup) has a groundball rate of 55 percent and a slash line of .318/.400/.364 over his last 30 or so plate appearances? A hint: His first name includes an “a” an a “y” and he is a total lightning rod for debate nowadays. Got it? Good, because Andy Sonnanstine gets to bat for the first time this season. Sonnanstine may not continue to be that good of a hitter (for a pitcher), but darn it he is the only Rays pitcher whose plate appearances don’t appeal only to barbarians.

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