Tampa Bay Rays reliever J.P. Howell pitching better, feeling more confident than ever

Reliever J.P. Howell, recovered from labrum surgery, holds the Rays record with 242/3 straight scoreless innings.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

Reliever J.P. Howell, recovered from labrum surgery, holds the Rays record with 242/3 straight scoreless innings.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The low moments and difficult times LHP J.P. Howell had on his path back from May 2010 shoulder surgery have made his current success even more enjoyable.

If his smile wasn't enough of an indicator, or the stat sheet numbers — including the team record he added to Saturday by extending his scoreless streak to 242/3 innings — weren't telling enough, there's his strut coming off the mound.

"Right now I think he's throwing the ball better than any time, even when he had that really good year in 2008, based on velocity and movement," manager Joe Maddon said. "And now he's getting back to that little swagger thing when he walks off the field in an oblivious manner, which I love. And that's a big part of his success, I think. The more oblivious you can be, that's the true indicator that you are in the zone."

Howell worked hard to come back from the torn labrum and didn't do particularly well last year, going 2-3 with a 6.16 ERA in 46 games. The Rays' training staff deserves some of the credit, and so does Howell's wife, Heather.

"I've come a long way, and, man, it's just been cool," Howell said. "It's good to look back a little bit. I've got to give a shout-out to my wife. She's the one who had to wear the brunt of this. She's been with me the whole way. She's seen me behind closed doors. So this is pretty cool for us."

REHAB REPORT: DH Luke Scott was off Saturday and was scheduled to play what looked to be his last rehab game today for advanced Class A Charlotte, then report to Tropicana Field and be activated Monday or Tuesday. He has been out since July 21 with an oblique strain. … RHP Jeff Niemann, recovering from his mid-May broken leg, was scheduled to make the third of four scheduled rehab starts today for Triple-A Durham, five innings or 75 pitches.

CHIRINOS UPDATE: C Robinson Chirinos, sidelined since spring training with a concussion, has resumed throwing, hitting and running at the Port Charlotte complex. The Rays hope he can get back behind the plate during the fall instructional league and expect him to be ready for spring training.

NOT-SO-MINOR MATTER: SS Hak-Ju Lee's season is likely over. He was put on the disabled list at Double-A Montgomery with an oblique strain. Lee, considered the Rays' top position player prospect, hit .261 with four homers, 37 RBIs and 37 steals in 116 games for the Biscuits. … In what the Rays hope is a peek at the future, 2011 top draft pick RHP Taylor Guerrieri started at Fenway Park on Saturday as short-season Class A Hudson Valley faced Lowell in the annual Futures game, allowing one run in three innings.

MISCELLANY: As part of the anniversary celebration of the Angels' 2002 World Series championship, the team Saturday inducted the full squad, including Maddon and C Jose Molina, into its Hall of Fame. … OF Sam Fuld and Maddon wore microphones during the game for the Caught Looking TV show, which airs at 9 Thursday on the NBC Sports Network. … RHP Jeremy Hellickson flew home to be rested for Monday's start vs. Kansas City.

Tampa Bay Rays reliever J.P. Howell pitching better, feeling more confident than ever 08/18/12 [Last modified: Saturday, August 18, 2012 11:53pm]

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