Howell happy to have Toronto crowd on his side

Ex-Tampa Bay reliever recalls fans' creative chants

Howell happy to have Toronto crowd on his side

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- New Blue Jays reliever J.P. Howell sounds like a man who is grateful that he will be suiting up for the home team at Rogers Centre instead of the opposing side.

Howell is quite familiar with Toronto's home crowd after having spent six seasons with the Rays from 2006-12. By the sounds of it, Howell's experience north of the border wasn't always pleasant, but he seemed to enjoy it anyway.

"I've always loved it there," Howell said when asked about pitching in Toronto. "I love the fans, the people, it gets rowdy. It's tough being an opponent in there. They're pretty cutthroat, they do their research. I'd love to be a home guy there. I want them to do that, keep it up, keep breaking them down."

Research? What research?

"They say some personal things," Howell said. "They know Google, they check it out. They definitely do. It's interesting going there. I don't want to say it's a hockey vibe, but it's a rowdy vibe."

Any favorite cat calls?

"They're all rated R," Howell said before breaking out in laughter. "A lot of them. Plenty of them. They get to you and it makes it a little wavy out there. It makes you a little emotional and that's what we want. We want those guys to feel it."

Howell is expected to be on the mound for the Blue Jays a lot. He's replacing Brett Cecil as one of the primary setup men and there's also a chance he'll be the only lefty reliever. Based on Howell's track record, that might be a good thing.

The 33-year-old made 15 appearances on no rest in 2016, limiting the opposition to a .675 OPS. That was better than his performance on one and two days' rest, and those numbers fall in line with his career norms. Over 11 seasons, opponents have a .598 OPS when Howell is pitching on back-to-back days, which is the lowest OPS allowed in the veteran's splits.

"I love that," Howell said in reference to a heavy workload. "I love pitching a lot ... If I could pitch every day, I would. The more you're in there, the more feel you get, the more you can kind of pick up on what the hitter's doing. You get a much better feel physically, mentally and also watching your opponent."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for 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.