Howell to see Andrews about shoulder
Rays lefty reliever suffers setback in simulated game Monday
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays reliever J.P. Howell will be examined Tuesday by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., after suffering a "definite setback" in his rehab from a left shoulder strain on Monday.
Howell was progressing steadily and threw a simulated game at Tropicana Field prior to Monday night's game, his first time throwing full-speed this year. But he was only able to throw 12 pitches before leaving the mound, clearly unhappy with how the outing went.
"He was upset. I saw that," manager Joe Maddon said. "He was really disappointed."
There has been much speculation that the injury could keep Howell sidelined for the rest of the season. Given his latest setback, the possibility of Howell returning this year appears more remote than before, as season-ending surgery might be an option.
The 28-year-old left-hander has not pitched for Tampa Bay this season, as the weakness in his left shoulder was detected as soon as he reported to Spring Training. Originally, Howell hoped to be back by late May or early June and start a rehab assignment in Port Charlotte, Fla., as early as this weekend.
Tampa Bay's relievers have stepped up their games in Howell's absence, but Maddon said he was still hoping for the lefty to return later this season. The bullpen has compiled a 1.57 ERA since April 14 and has only allowed three earned runs in its last 31 1/3 innings.
Sonnanstine thriving in Rays' bullpen
ST. PETERSBURG -- Andy Sonnanstine earned the win in Monday night's 4-3 Rays victory over the Indians by pitching a perfect 11th inning.
Sonnanstine has been the unsung arm in the bullpen this season after spending most of his time with the Rays as a starter. The right-hander has not sulked about his plight and can constantly be seen in the clubhouse studying hitters on video and taking notes in a notebook.
Tuesday night's appearance was Sonnanstine's 11th of the season and just his third in the team's previous 17 games. Rays manager Joe Maddon was impressed with Sonnanstine's stint as well as his professionalism.
"This guy has not pitched in a while, and I'm watching him go out there throwing strikes, really sharp," Maddon said. "If you've watched him in the clubhouse the last couple of weeks when he hasn't played, prior to each series, this guy takes notes, he looks at video, he's always staying ready for his moment. He had his moment, it was very big and he came out on top."
Pitching coach Jim Hickey said that Sonnanstine has "taken a little bit of a different approach to what he's doing."
"I think if you asked him, he would prefer to be a starting pitcher," Hickey said. "And he's got a lot more time available on his hands in the bullpen now where it's not a set schedule. So he's found a nice way to get into a routine, a nice way to prepare. He just wants to be prepared for any opportunity he has."
Hickey called Sonnanstine's long-relief role "probably the toughest role on the team."
"Just because you may not pitch for 10 days," Hickey said. "As a matter of fact, I think yesterday he had not pitched in seven days. Then you may be asked to pitch three out of four days, you just never know. He has to stay ready, stay focused and stay sharp, and I think all the things he's doing allow him to do that."
The Rays had one reliever left in the bullpen after Sonnanstine on Monday night, Grant Balfour, who had been used a lot lately. So the Rays did not want to use Balfour.
"We were going to use [Sonnanstine] for whatever it took -- three, four, five innings," Hickey said. "He was going to pitch until he couldn't."
Sonnanstine said being able to throw strikes after such a long layoff was crucial to his success.
"I felt great, arm was feeling good," said Sonnanstine, noting that he had a lot left in the tank. "I was ready to go as long as I was needed."
Jaso's hustle pays off for Rays
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Joe Maddon heaped praise on John Jaso when he beat out a throw to first base to spark Monday night's 11th-inning rally over the Indians, but not everyone thought so highly of the play.
"The one that was a hit but he was really out?" Cleveland reliever Jamey Wright said. "That's part of baseball. I heard him catch the glove and then I heard his foot come down, plain as day, but sometimes that happens, you know?"
Jaso hit a chopper to shortstop with one out off Wright and was called safe, although video replays have shown that the Rays catcher's foot touched the bag after first baseman Russell Branyan made the catch.
Jaso said he didn't even know it went to the shortstop. As soon as he hit it, he put his head down and ran, not looking at the ball after he made contact, because he knew he'd have to run hard given how softly he hit it. And what did he think of the play at first?
"It's whatever," Jaso said, laughing. "I was safe. That was the call."
Shortstop Jason Bartlett, who drove in Jaso with a safety-squeeze bunt -- the first walk-off bunt in team history -- later in the 11th, said Maddon constantly preaches how important it is to run hard to first base. It certainly paid off for the Rays on Monday night.
"Umpires see that," Bartlett said. "If you keep running hard, they're going to give you those bang-bang plays a lot more."
Crawford could be center of attention in NY
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays will draw plenty of attention as they travel to New York to face the Yankees on Wednesday, but one Tampa Bay player in particular will likely face a little more scrutiny than the rest.
There has been a great deal of speculation and more than a few rumors that Carl Crawford, whose contract with the Rays expires at the end of this season, could be playing in pinstripes in 2011. Crawford has stated his desire to not speak about his impending free agency for the rest of the season, and manager Joe Maddon said the speedy left fielder will be able to deal with the New York media attention in the teams' two-game series this week.
"I think Carl's savvy enough to handle all that. Of course they're going to come after him," Maddon said. "He's put it out there from Day 1 that, 'I'm going to play the game this year with the Rays, and I want the Rays to win a championship.'"
Given the Yankees' ability to sign Crawford to a high-salary contract, and the Rays' comparatively low payroll, it is widely rumored that New York will be able to pay the 28-year-old Crawford more than any other team could afford to. But Maddon and Crawford aren't worrying about that yet, especially with a critical series against the Yankees right around the corner.
"From my perspective, he's a Ray, and I want him to stay one after this year," Maddon said. "It's just one of those things. Things like that are going to be said, especially when you play there. I really think Carl's had enough of it during the course of this season that I think he'll handle it well."
Entering Tuesday, Crawford was batting .313 on the year with a .372 on-base percentage and .510 slugging percentage. He had hit 12 doubles, four triples and three home runs, driven in 17 runs and stolen 10 bases.
We The Kings to play postgame concert
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have announced an additional postgame concert, but with a twist.
Rather than Saturday night, the Rays will host a Friday night postgame concert on May 28 featuring alternative rock band We The Kings.
We The Kings is named after King Middle School in their hometown of Bradenton, Fla., where they first made music together. The band headlined their own tour this past summer as well as the 2009 Vans Warped Tour. Their self-titled debut album hit No. 1 on Billboard's New Alternative Album sales chart, which included Billboard-charting tracks "Secret Valentine" and "Check Yes Juliet," which is nearing Platinum status.
"We continue to search for ways to improve our fan experience and attract more fans to our games," said Rays senior vice president of business operations Brian Auld. "A performance by We The Kings is just one more compelling reason to support the Rays and experience Friday Fest at its fullest."
Bill Chastain is a reporter and Adam Berry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.