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04/05/11 6:27 PM ET

Howell feeling good, close to facing hitters

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays reliever J.P. Howell continues to make progress from left shoulder surgery and is getting close to pitching to hitters.

The left-hander threw a 35-pitch bullpen session using all of his pitches on Sunday, which was the first time he'd done so on one day's rest. He reported feeling fine on Tuesday.

Next, he'll throw all of his pitches during a 35-pitch bullpen on Wednesday in advance of throwing 25 fastballs n Friday's bullpen. On Sunday, he'll throw a 35-pitch bullpen using all of his pitches. If all goes well, he said he'll throw a live batting practice in Port Charlotte, Fla.

"I'll probably throw about 25 pitches," Howell said. "Dude, I'm ready to face some hitters."

Rodriguez, Lopez to split hot corner duties

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Joe Maddon is leaning toward using a platoon at third base, featuring Sean Rodriguez and Felipe Lopez, while Evan Longoria is on the disabled list with a left oblique strain.

For the most part, Lopez, who is a switch-hitter, will face right-handers and Rodriguez, who hits from the right side, will face the left-handers. However, that won't always be the case, particularly in the upcoming series against the White Sox in Chicago.

Right-hander Edwin Jackson will start for the White Sox on Thursday and Maddon called him "neutral." Translation: Neither righties nor lefties have an advantage against him, so Rodriguez will start. Lefty John Danks will start for the White Sox on Friday, and he has reverse splits.

Left-handers hit .273 against Danks last season, while right-handers hit just .221. Thus, Lopez will likely start against Danks, but it will look odd for a switch-hitter to be hitting left-handed against a left-hander.

Finally, right-hander Gavin Floyd will start for the White Sox in Sunday's finale. Like Danks, Floyd has reverse splits. Last season, right-handers hit .292 against him while left-handers hit .259. Thus, Rodriguez should start.

Damon back in lineup after sitting Sunday

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays outfielder Johnny Damon was scratched from Sunday's game because his right calf muscle was a little bit stiff. He was available if needed, but ended up not playing.

On Tuesday, Damon was back in the lineup, playing left field and hitting second.

"It feels fine," said Damon of his calf, noting that the problem could have been caused by "a number of things."

"[Monday] it felt so-so," Damon said. "Today it feels pretty good."

Maddon said he will keep a close eye on Damon.

"Big thing is [Wednesday]," Maddon said. "A day game after a night game."

The veteran outfielder signed a one-year, $5.25 million deal with Tampa Bay on Feb. 1. He went 0-for-8 over the weekend against Baltimore.

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