When J.P. Howell was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2006, he was a “failing starter” making the major league minimum. When he left as free agent to sign with the Dodgers before this season, he was a southpaw specialist pitching out of the bullpen and making $2.85 million.
So there really are no sore feelings toward the Rays, the Dodgers’ opponent this weekend.
Howell explained how he was able to turn his career around in Tampa:
“When they go there, you’re allowed to do it,” he said. “That’s what happened in my case. I was a starter. I was failing. I came over from Kansas City. I felt like I didn’t have any trust for the front office or management people.”
Allard Baird was the general manager in Kansas City during Howell’s tenure with the team. He was fired and replaced by Dayton Moore on June 8, 2006. Twelve days later, Howell was traded to Tampa Bay.
Current Rays general manager Andrew Friedman was 28 years old at the time. Howell had high praise for the environment that Friedman had created when he arrived.
“I was allowed to mess up and learn from it,” Howell said. That was really important for me. I don’t want to be fake ever, to act like I’m proper when I’m not. I don’t want to be goofy when I should be proper. I want to learn the right way to do it.
“They didn’t place any rules on me or anyone over there. If you’re a bad seed you’re going to weed yourself out. If you’re good you’ll stay. It’s as simple as that. No contracts, no scholarships, nothing like that. A much looser clubhouse.”