Despite losing closer Rafael Soriano and setup men Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, and Dan Wheeler to free agency the Rays’ bullpen leads the league with a 2.82 ERA and they’re close to adding left-hander J.P. Howell to the relief mix.
After struggling as a starter Howell moved to the bullpen full time in 2008 and went 13-6 with 20 saves, 171 strikeouts, and a 2.48 ERA in 156 innings over the next two seasons, but he missed all of last season following shoulder surgery.
Howell threw a scoreless inning at Triple-A over the weekend and manager Joe Maddon told Rick Stroud of the St. Petersburg Times that he’s on schedule to rejoin the Rays around May 15.
Before that happens he’ll need to show that he can work back-to-back games and Howell’s fastball clocked in at just 84-86 miles per hour during the rehab appearance, but even when he was dominating in 2008 and 2009 his average fastball was just 86 mph.
Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong was pulled from Saturday’s game against the Brewers after sustaining a right elbow contusion, according to a team announcement. The full extent of the injury has not been revealed, nor is it clear when Wong might return to the lineup, though he’s presumed to be day-to-day for the time being.
Wong suffered the injury in the third inning. He reached base on a line drive single to right field, his first of the evening, and was accidentally struck on the elbow when Wade Miley made an errant throw to Jesus Aguilar on a pickoff attempt. The 27-year-old second baseman has already seen his season shortened by injuries after sustaining a right thigh contusion and, more recently, dealing with a bout of chronic inflammation in his left knee. He entered Saturday’s contest batting .238/.323/.388 on the year with eight home runs, and a .711 OPS through 330 PA.
Following the incident, Wong was replaced on the field by Greg Garcia at the top of the fourth inning. The Cardinals currently lead the Brewers 4-1 in the bottom of the sixth.