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Tampa Bay Rays reliever J.P. Howell left off AL All-Star team because of need to have every team represented, manager Joe Maddon says

ARLINGTON — Though it was a banner day for Rays All-Stars, manager Joe Maddon said LHP J.P. Howell deserved to make the team but had to be left off because of circumstances surrounding the selection process.

Maddon said he had limited flexibility on his five pitcher picks, partly because every team had to be represented, so Athletics RHP Andrew Bailey and White Sox LHP Mark Buehrle took up two spots.

Mariners RHP Felix Hernandez, Red Sox RHP Tim Wakefield and Angels LHP Brian Fuentes, the AL saves leader, were the others.

Howell said there were no hard feelings, and he appreciated Maddon explaining the situation to him before Saturday night's game.

"I wouldn't want to be in his shoes picking (from) all these guys," Howell said. "He definitely had a tough decision to make. He took the time to do it and made the right decision. Like I said, I'm glad I'm not him."

Howell, 26, entered Sunday's game with 15 straight scoreless appearances and was fourth among AL relievers in strikeouts (46) and ERA (1.63). "He has pitched well enough to be on this All-Star team," Maddon said.

Maddon pointed out that Howell could be added if an injury pops up. "Either way, it's okay, it's not the end of the world," Howell said. "It's definitely something you always want to do as a kid. It's just one of those things you gotta let it go and move on."

In or out? Though 3B Evan Longoria may be a popular pick to participate in the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game, both he and the Rays wouldn't mind if he sat this one out.

Longoria competed in the event last season in New York.

"I kind of don't want to hit in it this year, but if they need somebody, I'll do it again," Longoria said. "I'd rather relax."

Longoria has been dealing with a sore left hamstring, which is probably partly why Maddon said, "If he's not really into it, I'm good with that."

If Longoria doesn't, Ben Zobrist said he "would love to do it. … It'd be fun, and it's something that I've tried to do in (batting practice) before. So maybe it'll work out."

Rising star: Maddon said he "couldn't be happier for" ex-Rays RHP Edwin Jackson, who made his first All-Star Game with the Tigers after getting voted in by the players. Jackson was traded in the offseason for RF Matt Joyce. "We always knew that this guy could be good, really good," Maddon said. "He's a wonderful young man, and he did great service for us here with the Rays, and I'm really pleased and will be happy to see him in St. Louis."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Rays reliever J.P. Howell left off AL All-Star team because of need to have every team represented, manager Joe Maddon says 07/05/09 [Last modified: Monday, July 6, 2009 7:37am]
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