Howell heads for DL with left shoulder strain

Howell heads for DL with left shoulder strain

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Blue Jays will have closer Roberto Osuna back on Tuesday, but lost another key reliever Sunday morning when lefty J.P. Howell was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a left shoulder strain.

Toronto recalled right-hander Dominic Leone from Triple-A Buffalo to take Howell's spot on the roster. Osuna will need to be activated prior to Tuesday's home opener vs. Milwaukee, but is expected to take the spot of right-hander Casey Lawrence.

Howell appeared in Friday's 10-8 loss to the Rays, but something did not look right. He allowed all four batters he faced to reach base, and he seemed to have difficulty locating his pitches. The injury provides at least a partial explanation for the poor showing, and it turns out he was feeling discomfort even before that outing.

"Warming up in the bullpen on Thursday night, I didn't go in, and then Friday night I got in, and the same thing, it tightened up," Howell said Sunday afternoon. "It got me a little nervous, and I tried to pitch through it. I pitch through a lot of things all the time, and this one was just a little too much. I couldn't extend or finish those pitches off."

This marks the first time Howell has been placed on the DL since 2011. He made at least 64 appearances each season from 2013-16 and has been known as one of the more durable relievers in the game, but has run into some early troubles in Toronto after signing a one-year deal in the offseason.

Aaron Loup will take over the duties as Toronto's primary lefty out of the bullpen. Toronto eventually could turn to someone like Matt Dermody or Tim Mayza if Howell's injury becomes a more long-term thing, but the belief is that the club will stick with one lefty in the 'pen for the time being.

Loup escapes a jam

Howell went 1-1 with a 4.09 ERA for the Dodgers in 2016. He has a career 3.80 ERA over 12 seasons in the big leagues, with stints in Tampa Bay and Kansas City, in addition to Los Angeles.

"It's a hard move for me to make," Howell admitted. "I've never done it during the middle of the year unless I needed surgery. It's a tough move and it was tough to admit, but six months to go, that's too long to pitch like that."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.