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Rays shut down weary Howell

Posted Sep 25, 2009 by Marc Lancaster

Updated Sep 25, 2009 at 07:35 PM

ARLINGTON—The Rays already had backed off significantly in J.P. Howell’s usage out of the bullpen in recent weeks, and now they’ve officially pulled the plug on the reliever.

Manager Joe Maddon informed Howell on Wednesday that he wouldn’t pitch in the final week and a half of the Rays’ season, citing the workload he has carried the past two seasons and the fatigue that obviously had caught up with him based on his subpar performances in August and earlier this month.

“Over the last two years he has thrown more relief innings than any pitcher in baseball, and there’s nothing positive to be derived from having him pitch for the next 10 games, so we’ve chosen to shut him down,” Maddon said today.

Howell is actually down to third in the most-innings race among relievers, but 156 innings the last two seasons is quite a workload. He made 69 appearances for the Rays this season, surpassing his career-high of 64 established last year in his first season as a reliever.

Howell didn’t fight the decision, but there was no reason to considering he obviously hasn’t been himself on the mound recently.

“Smart move,” he said. “It’s been a long two years, to be honest – I feel like it never stopped. Here you feel like you can kind of take a breath now and get ready for next year.”

Of course, logic hasn’t kept Howell from taking a beating from his teammates since the news got out. Asked if he had a new role in the bullpen now that he’s not pitching, Howell replied:

“Just dartboard, man. They just crush me. The intensity on the field shut down, but the intensity picked up in the bullpen, man, with the verbal abuse I’m taking.”

Howell finishes this season with a 7-5 record, 17 saves and a 2.83 ERA. He earned his final save Sunday to complete the Rays’ sweep of Toronto.

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