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Tampa Bay Rays sticking with J.P. Howell as closer despite recent blips

DETROIT — LHP J.P. Howell has blown his past two save chances, but the Rays aren't going to blow up their plans to have him handle the most crucial situations.

"When you lose in walkoff fashion, people tend to reflect a lot more on that one game than on the entire body of work," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "J.P. has been an integral part of our success this season, and there is no doubt in my mind that we wouldn't be in the position we are without him.

"We have a lot of confidence in him and are confident that he's going to continue to help us win big games down the stretch."

Howell had converted 13 consecutive saves before blowing one in the ninth Saturday against Texas, though he did take a loss when he allowed a walkoff homer Aug. 7 in Seattle. He allowed a tying homer Wednesday with one out in the ninth, walked the bases loaded and threw a wild pitch that allowed the winning run to score.

"It's just unfortunate, because J.P. has been so great for us all year," manager Joe Maddon said.

Overall, Howell has converted 15 saves and blown an American League-high seven. He has allowed homers in four of his past seven appearances.

Over 2008-09, he has thrown the most relief innings (150) in the majors.

ON THE MATT: As RHP James Shields was preparing to address the media after Tuesday's game, Matt Garza came over to deliver mock congratulations for reaching eight wins, and they shared a laugh.

For both, it has been that kind of season, pitching better than their records reflect. And when Garza starts tonight, seeking his eighth win, he will do so with an altered approach.

"If the wins come, they come. If they don't, they don't," said Garza, 7-8 despite a respectable 3.74 ERA. "As long as at the end of the day we have a W in the right column, it really doesn't bother me anymore.

"I went through a phase this year where I wanted to win so bad it just sort of got me away from being me. Now I'm at the point where if they come, great. But it's just a number. As long as we get the bigger numbers at the end of the year and we get to October, that's all I'm worried about."

WEB GEM: Triple-A Durham OF Jon Weber was hoping for a September callup after a tremendous season for the Bulls — .303, 44 doubles, 14 homers, 65 RBIs going into play Thursday. He will have to settle for a trip to Europe, selected, along with Durham RHP Jason Childers, for the U.S. team that will play in the World Cup tournament Sept. 9-27. Also chosen was Northside Christian/St. Petersburg College product RHP Todd Redmond, who is with the Braves' Triple-A Gwinnett team.

MISCELLANY: LF Carl Crawford, out since Monday with a stiff back, is expected to rejoin the lineup tonight or Saturday. … 2B Akinori Iwamura was in the lineup Thursday for Durham, continuing his rehab in advance of Tuesday's expected activation.

Tampa Bay Rays sticking with J.P. Howell as closer despite recent blips 08/27/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 27, 2009 10:39pm]
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