Once Howell was recalled, a lateral move had to be made, which turned out to be Hammel getting optioned back to Triple-A Durham.
Hammel pitched four innings in the first game, allowing two runs on two hits before getting lifted once his pitch count reached 68 pitches. The 24-year-old right-hander had been pitching in the bullpen since being recalled from Durham on June 11.
"We want him to start," said Rays manager Joe Maddon, explaining the move. "The four innings today pushes him along the way. And when that need arises we know he's going to be ready. So we chose this for his benefit and for ours in the future.
"We think the experience he's gained has really been helpful to him. ... You look at his pitches, the fastball, the slider, the curve, the change -- he's got four pitches that he can utilize as a starter. I just think he's growing as far as his maturity and his composure. The poise and the confidence, I see that coming along. And as he gains command of these pitches, really gains command, he can really take off because he's got four legitimate weapons."
Hammel took the news well, but he was surprised by the move.
"I didn't see it coming," Hammel said. "[But] they're trying to do what's best for the team. I'll definitely come back and be a starter, that's not a problem at all."
Hammel, who is 1-0 with a 5.82 ERA, called the move bittersweet because he likes being a starter, but he likes being in the Major Leagues, too.
"When you're starting you've got five days to prepare," Hammel said. "In the bullpen you're preparing every day. You've got to be crisp and ready to go all the time. As a starter, you can work on a few things in the days in between. You can be off and not get hurt. But in the bullpen you've got to get it done every day. So it's just a little different mindset. ... I'm a little more comfortable as a starter. So I'll go down, get some work in and come back."
Earlier, Maddon had talked about the possibility of Hammel becoming a quality late-inning reliever -- a scenario that did not come to fruition.
"I didn't see it happening," Maddon said. "We wanted to do that early on and part of that was based on need. It just didn't seem to want to go in that direction. It wasn't his fault... We're just trying to piece this all together and we just felt like the best thing for him and us right now is to be a starter."
Wiggy dismisses trade talk: Several news sources have reported the rumor of a trade that would send Ty Wigginton to the Yankees for reliever Scott Proctor. Wigginton smiled when asked about the rumor.
"Same thing, I [heard trade rumors] for a whole month when I was with the Mets my first go around," Wigginton said. "Every day when I opened the paper. ... No, it doesn't [bother me] at all."
Approval from the boss: Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said Maddon is "doing a good job."
"It's not easy to be upbeat and positive with all this, and he has been," Sternberg said. "The players seem to be playing for him, and they seem to be responding, and guys are hustling. If and when, and when and if, that doesn't happen, it becomes a real issue. But that hasn't been on the radar screen at all from what I've seen and I don't think from what anybody else has seen."
Injury updates: Josh Paul [left elbow strain] is close to coming off the disabled list according to Maddon. Paul got two hits for Class A Vero Beach on Friday and will go to Double-A Montgomery on Monday.
"He looks like he's on schedule, might be back by Boston [Friday in St. Petersburg]," Maddon said. "He's making some nice progress."
Shawn Riggans [right elbow tendinitis] currently is at Triple-A Durham, but Maddon said he is not feeling as well as Paul on a daily basis.
Right-hander Tim Corcoran [right elbow strain] will join Paul in Montgomery on Monday and is scheduled to start for the Biscuits.
Up next: The Rays will wrap up their four-game series with the Yankees on Sunday afternoon in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest at Yankee Stadium. Right-hander James Shields will start for the Rays and will be opposed by left-hander Andy Pettitte.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.