The Dodgers formally announced the signing of left-handed reliever J.P. Howell to a one-year contract worth a reported $2.85 million. Howell fills the role that became vacant when Randy Choate signed a three-year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals.
The 29-year-old Howell posted a 3.04 ERA in 55 appearances with the Tampa Bay Rays last season, the team he’s pitched for since 2006. Howell missed the entire 2010 season after having shoulder surgery, then came back to pitch 46 games in 2011. Over parts of seven big-league seasons, Howell has held lefties to a .241 batting average and righties to a .248 clip, making him slightly more valuable than the typical left-handed only specialist.
According to FanGraphs.com, Howell is an extreme junkballer. Last year he threw 24 fastballs among 816 total pitches, topping out at 88 mph. Howell relied more on his sinker (which opponents hit to a .267 batting average), slider (.167) and changeup (.250).
Howell gives the Dodgers 40 players on their 40-man roster.
“J.P. adds to our bullpen, especially from the left side,” general manager Ned Colletti said in a statement. “He provides Don with additional choices of someone who has pitched at a high level in very competitive situations.”
From 2008-12, Howell ranked seventh in the American League (min. 200 games) with a .209 opponents’ batting average and ranked 18th during that span with a 3.08 ERA. He’s averaged more than a strikeout per inning in that span (239 strikeouts, 112 walks in 237 innings).
Howell has appeared in 13 postseason games in his career, posting a 3.00 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 12.0 innings. In Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, the Philadelphia Phillies’ Pat Burrell doubled off Howell to lead off the seventh inning; Burrell came around to score against Chad Bradford and Howell was charged with the loss in the deciding game of the series.
Howell also made three scoreless appearances (3.1 IP) for Team USA in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.The 6-foot, 190-pounder was originally selected by Kansas City in the first round (31st overall) of the 2004 draft out of Jesuit High School in Carmichael (Sacramento County). He was signed by current Dodger scout Chet Sergo. Howell pitched for USC in the 2001-02 season before transferring to the University of Texas at Austin.