Nationals Need Lefty Relief Help, Interested in J.P. Howell

With Mike Gonzalez signing with the Milwaukee Brewers, the Washington Nationals are left to wonder where their bullpen stands.  They have just two lefties for the 'pen on the roster right now, Zach Duke and Bill Bray.  Both pitched in the minors last years.  Now, Washington must search for some reinforcements.  One such option may be J.P. Howell.

According to Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington, the Nationals have already expressed interest in Howell, but they may look to pick up someone via trade.  Howell is currently a free agent.

Howell pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays last season and posted a 3.04 ERA.  He has been in the Majors for seven seasons and has a 4.42 ERA.  While his overall ERA is high, Howell has shown signs of being a lock-down lefty from the bullpen.  In 2008, he had a 2.22 ERA.  In 2009, he had a 2.84 ERA.

Howell had a significant injury setback in 2010.  In May of 2010, it was announced that he would undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.  He missed the entire 2010 season.  In 2011, he came back a different pitcher.  He posted a 6.16 ERA in 46 appearances for the Rays in 2011.

Howell is still working his way back to being the pitcher he was before the injury.  Last season was his first big step.  The Nationals, if they are willing to take the risk, could reap large rewards if Howell can be the dominant workhorse he was in the two seasons prior to his injury.  

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