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12/13/10 6:46 PM EST

Howell returns to Rays with one-year contract

ST. PETERSBURG -- J.P. Howell has signed a one-year deal to remain with the Rays.

The Rays announced the signing, which gives them a solid piece for their 2011 bullpen, late Monday afternoon.

Howell, 27, went to the Rays' bullpen in 2008 and became a late-inning weapon during the team's run to the World Series. He finished at 6-1 with a 2.22 ERA and three saves in 64 appearances. In 2009 he worked much of the season as the Rays' closer, posting a 7-5 mark with a 2.84 ERA and 17 saves while making 69 appearances.

He could not shake a sore shoulder during Spring Training in 2010, and he underwent season-ending surgery in mid-May.

"J.P. is a great competitor, and he's brought that to his rehab from day one," said Andrew Friedman, the Rays' executive vice president of baseball operations. "Coming back from shoulder surgery is never easy, but he is absolutely fearless, and we look forward to him helping us in the late innings again soon."

Though Howell is expected to make a full recovery, it's likely the Rays will take a cautious approach with him, which likely means he'll miss the first month or two of the 2011 season.

The Rays elected to non-tender Howell -- who made $1.8 million in 2008 -- then continued to negotiate with him, talks that culminated in Monday's deal, which is for an unspecified amount.

Howell is one of the more popular players on the team, which resonated in the remarks made by manager Joe Maddon in May, when Howell underwent the surgery.

"He's going to be a significant part of our future, I believe," Maddon said. "It's tough for anybody, but this guy has such exuberance for the game of life in general. He's a big part of our soul and spirit around here. The guy's going to be missed. But he's going to be back at some point, and we're thankful for that."

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