Seemingly everything had gone right for the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays this year until they were dealt a blow on Wednesday morning. According to John Romano of the St. Petersburg Times, reliever J.P. Howell needs surgery and will miss the rest of the season and part of the 2011 season.
Howell had been trying to rehab from a strained throwing shoulder but faced a setback Monday when he had to cut short a simulated game.
As Romano pointed out, the loss of Howell could be bigger than it seems.
"It is not simply Howell's numbers that matter, but his versatility," Romano wrote, adding that other relievers will now need to emulate Howell's versatility. "He could set up or close, he could pitch multiple innings and multiple days, he could pitch to both left-handers and right-handers. Howell was the perfect fallback plan whenever [manager Joe] Maddon needed a lifeline."
The loss of Howell won't derail the Rays, who own a 28-11 record and are three games better than any other team in baseball. Still, the team is unquestionably down a quality arm.