PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Despite J.P. Howell's disappointing 2011 season, the Rays opted to tender him a contract so he would return this year. Howell said he thought the team's decision to bring him back was a coin flip, but he's happy to be with the team with which he enjoyed great success in '08 and '09 before he missed '10 while recovering from left shoulder surgery.
When asked about the deciding factors for bringing Howell back, manager Joe Maddon couldn't say enough good things about the diminutive southpaw.
"I thought last year, if you looked at his body of work against left-handers, it wasn't that bad," Maddon said. "It was actually pretty good. He had always been even better against righties, but the righties got him last year, and that's kind of where things broke down.
"Furthermore, here's a guy coming off a really severe surgery. Not a minor surgery -- it was pretty severe. So you have to be patient. I think patience is a big word. And on top of that, you're talking about one of the best makeup guys I've ever been affiliated with in our game. So you have to weigh everything and you have to believe he is going to bounce back, as long as he's healthy, and I think he is.
"You have a very motivated, focused pitcher who has had a lot of success in the big leagues. ... He was very successful [in 2008 and '09]. Surgery, comeback year, let's get it going again. It's easy for me that we would want him back. He drips with intangibles. Now if we get him physically well again, I think you're going to see a lot of what you've seen in the past."
Maddon believes it will be important to try and get Howell off to a "confident, good start."