May 18, 2010, 1:44 PM EDT
Nothing official has been announced yet, but Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times reports that J.P. Howell is in Alabama today visiting with Dr. James Andrews and “indications are” he “will have surgery” to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder.
After struggling as a starter Howell moved to the bullpen full time in 2008 and over the next two seasons went 13-6 with a 2.48 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 156 innings. He saved 17 games after replacing Troy Percival at closer last season, but was shut down late in the year due to “fatigue” and then complained of shoulder soreness this spring.
He had been shooting for a late-May return before suffering a setback during a bullpen session yesterday. If surgery is indeed necessary Howell will miss the entire season and likely part of 2011 as well. Labrum surgeries have a lower rate of recovery than Tommy John surgery, so he’s looking at a very long road back and the Rays’ bullpen won’t be adding another late-inning weapon.
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