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Rays

Howell will take it slow at first

By
Published:   |   Updated: March 22, 2013 at 09:13 AM
PORT CHARLOTTE -

J.P. Howell has high expectations for himself this season, which is why he's taking it slow this spring.

The left-handed reliever will throw only his second bullpen today. The left-hander is behind the rest of the pitchers and that's by design.

"I want to get 80 appearances this year. Why have 10 more in the spring?" Howell said. "I don't want to pitch 90 games this year adding the spring, so I want to go seven appearances here, maybe six, and go into the year."

Howell has thrown 156 innings in 133 appearances in the past two seasons. That's the most innings in the majors by a lefty reliever. Also, his 69 appearances last season were a career-high.

"We're just trying to put the brakes on it a little bit," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I want to make sure he's strong at the end of the season."

The two-year workload took its toll on the 6-foot, 180-pound Howell in August. He pitched just 12 times after Aug. 21 (1-2, 7.88 ERA, three blown saves) and was shut down for the final 10 games of the season.

"I was just fatigued and weak, and I wanted to strengthen everything to make sure we got it under control," Howell said. "Now we are, so it's 'OK. Now we can go.' It's not arm issues. It's just one of those things where they know what they're doing, they're being smart for me once again. They need to look out for me. I'll never say no, that's the problem."

Fundamentally sound

The Rays worked on pickoffs, rundowns and bunt defense Sunday, something Maddon said they will work on periodically throughout the season.

"We're going to be proactive, the quality assurance thing, staying ahead of the problem," Maddon said. "We just weren't as good last year and we want to be as good as we were two years ago."

Maddon said it is important to stay on top of the bunt defense, since they won't see it as much until they begin interleague play.

"When you're an American League team, the bunt defense doesn't come up that often," he said. "We'll see it maybe five times before we face the National League."

Where you from, son?

1B Carlos Pena added the words, "Made in the Dom. Rep." to the back of the blue shirt he wears under his jersey. He said he's hoping to "stir it up" in the clubhouse and get the rest of the players to display their origin of birth on the back of their shirts.

Odds and ends

ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" visited the Rays on Sunday as part of its Grapefruit Express Tour. ... Jeremy Guthrie is scheduled to start for the Orioles during Wednesday's Grapefruit League opener in Sarasota. ... Today's practice will start at 9 a.m. and end at 10:30 a.m. so the players can catch the bus to their annual charity golf outing at The Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club in Bradenton. "I'm ready to go out there and lose some golf balls," Maddon said. ... Sunday was the last day pitchers will throw batting practice. ... Tuesday's intrasquad game will last 31/2 innings and will include bunting and bunt defense after every half-inning.

Roger Mooney

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