J.P. Howell, Dioner Navarro Injured, But News Could Have Been Worse

The Tampa Bay Rays suffered injuries to two key players this weekend, and although that’s never a good thing, the news isn’t as bad for Rays fans as it could have been.

Reliever J.P. Howell, who had been rehabbing a sore throwing shoulder all spring, suffered a setback in a bullpen session Friday, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. An MRI revealed "quite a bit of inflammation," Howell said.

He won’t pitch for two to three weeks and is expected to miss the first month of the regular season, the newspaper said. The good news for the Rays, though, is that he won’t need surgery, which could have kept him out the entire season.

"Luckily, it was nothing too, too serious," Howell told the paper. "But I'm going to have to take some time to rehab it and make sure I'm pretty much perfect before I get back out there."

Manager Joe Maddon said he hasn’t yet decided how he’ll go about replacing Howell, who had 17 saves and a 2.84 ERA last season.

"I don't have any really solid answers right now," Maddon said. "We're going to have to be creative and some of the other guys are going to have to get this work done for us."

A day after Howell’s setback, catcher Dioner Navarro was carted off the field following a home-plate collision in the fourth inning of the Rays’ 6-2 spring training loss to the Minnesota Twins.

As Navarro fielded a throw from former Boston outfielder Gabe Kapler and blocked the plate, Jacque Jones slid hard into his left leg, the article said. Navarro held on for the out, but he couldn’t put any pressure on his leg when he stood up and he immediately fell back to the ground.

Fears of a broken bone or torn ligament were put to rest when the injury was diagnosed as just a nerve contusion, though. Navarro is expected to be good to go for opening day.

"Very positive news," Tampa Bay vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told the Herald-Tribune. "We're going to take a couple of days to evaluate it, but it should not interfere with opening day. Very fortunate outcome. I feared ankle at impact and knee when they were working on him. It shouldn't affect him long-term."

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