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Howell in awe of Hamilton's slam

Howell in awe of Hamilton's slam

ST. PETERSBURG -- Josh Hamilton's grand slam in Tuesday night's 12-6 Rangers win continued to be a topic of conversation around the Rays' clubhouse Wednesday.

Particularly the estimated distance of 398 feet.

"No way," said Rays lefty J.P. Howell, who surrendered the home run in the eighth inning. "That ball seemed like 500."

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Count Howell among those awed by Hamilton, not just for the way he hit the pitch, but for the pitch he hit.

"It was [a good pitch]," Howell said. "When I looked, it was about three inches in and tailing in, too. I was trying to go in there. Best thing I thought he could do was pull it foul. But somehow he opened his hips and kind of pushed it right where it went. The ball didn't even tail or cut. It just went straight ahead.

"He killed it. I honestly didn't know he had [power] like that. When he's doing stuff like that, he's just a different level. He's probably the best hitter I've faced, ever. A guy hitting that pitch, I was real confident at my release point. Right out of my hand, I was happy with it."

Hamilton grounded out in his first at-bat against Howell in the sixth.

"The first at-bat, he just sized me up," Howell said. "That's what made that pretty good. He got educated on me big time the first time up. I got two strikes on him in. I'm thinking to myself, 'He had a tough time with my two-seamer.' Then he hit that thing so far. He was sitting on it, man."

Howell confessed to having second thoughts about pitching to Hamilton after a Spring Training encounter against him in 2007 when Hamilton played for the Reds. Howell said Hamilton hit one back through the box that registered high on the hard-hit scale.

"I said to myself, 'I'm never going to throw him a strike again,'" Howell said.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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