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Rays' J.P. Howell agrees to join Los Angeles Dodgers

Left-handed reliever J.P. Howell said at the end of last season — his sixth in Tampa Bay — that he hoped to come back.

"That's my No. 1 choice, ever," he said.

But Howell's tenure with the Rays came to a close Saturday as he agreed to a one-year deal with the Dodgers. He will earn $2.85 million, plus $1.2 million in performance bonuses, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.

Howell has been a key, and color­ful, part of the Rays bullpen since the 2008 season, when the converted starter helped spark the team's improbable World Series run. Tampa Bay had remained interested in retaining Howell, but the 29-year-old had several other suitors this offseason, including the Nationals.

Howell's departure, along with those of B.J. Upton, Carlos Peña and James Shields this offseason, leaves Ben Zobrist as the last remaining Devil Ray on the current team.

Howell, who overcame a 2010 surgery on his left shoulder, appeared to return to form last season, when he had a 3.04 ERA in 55 appearances and set a franchise record for consecutive scoreless innings (27⅓).

The Rays are still looking to add to their bullpen. Even without Howell, they plan to have two lefty relievers, Jake McGee and likely Cesar Ramos, who is out of options. Pitching coach Jim Hickey has said Ramos can pitch multiple innings and fare well against both righties and lefties, like Howell did.

Howell, whose unique personality fit in well in the clubhouse, reflected after the season how much he enjoyed his time in Tampa Bay.

"This is the place to be, hands-down," he said. "This is the No. 1 place to be. It used to be the Yankees, Red Sox. But the freedom you have here, and the team chemistry, and the guys and the front office and (manager Joe Maddon) and the coaching staff, hands-down the best. I don't know how you can surpass it."

Around the majors

RIVERA TO THROW: Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who is coming back from surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee, plans to start his offseason throwing program next week, espn.com reported. Rivera, 43, said his knee is about "95 percent" recovered.

RANGERS ADD BERKMAN: The Rangers agreed to a one-year, $10 million contract with first baseman/DH Lance Berkman, espn.com reported. Berkman, 36, had two surgeries on his right knee last season, limiting him to 32 games with the Cardinals.

WILLIS TO CUBS: The Cubs are closing in on a minor-league deal with left-hander Dontrelle Willis, 30, the 2005 NL rookie of the year who has struggled ever since.

Information from times wires was used in this report.

Rays' J.P. Howell agrees to join Los Angeles Dodgers 01/05/13 [Last modified: Saturday, January 5, 2013 9:15pm]
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