Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher J.P. Howell was excited Wednesday after throwing his first bullpen practice.
"A lot of fun to be able to play a game where you got to hit a spot, instead of thinking is (the shoulder) going to hurt again," Howell said. "It's fun to play baseball again. That makes it a lot more enjoyable to be out there on that mound."
Howell struggled last season with consistency on nearly a pitch-to-pitch basis mostly because he couldn't repeat his delivery. He said he rediscovered his groove while throwing a bullpen just before Christmas.
"It makes it so much fun," Howell said. "I can play games in the 'pen to see how many times in a row I can hit a spot, and I can hit them four, five times in a row. I can do that rather than trying to build arm strength and not work on anything else. Now I can work on some pitches."
The Sam Fuld Rule
Major League Baseball has instituted Rule 3.05, which will "prohibit a manager from sending his current pitcher out to warm up with no intention of having him pitch because a relief pitcher is not ready to enter the game."
Some are calling it the Joe Maddon Rule, since he sent OF Sam Fuld to warm up in the bottom of the eighth inning last June in Milwaukee to give LHP Cesar Ramos more time to warm up in the bullpen. Fuld pinch-hit for Howell, and Maddon was going to use RHP Joel Peralta until the Rays extended their lead to 8-1.
Fuld threw eight warm-up pitches and was replaced by Ramos.
"That's hard to understand. Is there any intention or not?" Maddon said. "Intent is very difficult to ascertain. I'm OK with the rule. I don't anticipate that happening. It's more of a National League play than an American League play."
Maddon said he was impressed with RHP Fernando Rodney, who threw his first bullpen Wednesday. Maddon said he was also impressed with Howell's bullpen session. … LHP David Price took the trophy he earned for winning the Rays fantasy football league on a victory lap around the field before the workout.