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.
Dodgers pitcher J.P. Howell and Tampa Bay Rays first baseman James Loney were sitting in opposite clubhouses Friday. They were never traded for each other, but they have effectively swapped spots: Loney appeared in parts of seven seasons for the Dodgers from 2006-12, while Howell pitched for the Rays from 2006-12.
Both said the same thing about playing in Tampa.
“You always want to be yourself. (Manager Joe Maddon) is real big on that,” Loney said.
Howell elaborated: “Sometimes where people [on other teams] give up on (players), they go to Tampa and they get another chance, and they’re allowed freedom to be themselves, create who they want to be when they first started their career. … That’s what happened in my case.”
That seems to be the case with Loney, too.
1. 15 straight road wins. This streak ended Tuesday in a 5-1 loss, curiously the only game in St. Louis started by Clayton Kershaw, the presumptive Cy Young award favorite. The Dodgers fell three games short of a major league record but created eight bottom-of-the-ninth save situations in the process, making a hero of Kenley Jansen. More on him … now.
2. Kenley Jansen’s 27 straight outs: This one ended last night, ensuring that Mark Buehrle‘s record of 45 straight batters retired is safe. (Bobby Jenks still holds the record for relievers with 41.) Eric Stephen at TrueBlueLA.com charted each out today, while Evan Bladh at Opinion of Kingman’s Performance reminded me that the streak began rather inauspiciously in Toronto.
3. Fourteen straight series at .500 or better (10 wins, 0 losses, 4 ties). Managers tend to think in terms of series, and players do to an extent, but I think for many fans this concept is harder to grasp. Consider that when the streak began June 23, the Dodgers were in fifth place in the National League West. Since then, the Dodgers have only played one team (Arizona) that was in first place at the time of the series — so they were all series that a good team would expect to win. The Dodgers simply weren’t a good team when the streak began.
4. Eleven straight wins in one-run games. Again, this is largely due to Jansen and a bullpen that has held batters to a .179 batting average since the All-Star break. Paco Rodriguez has faced 33 batters in the second half and five have reached base.
5. Yasiel Puig‘s 16 straight games reaching base. Nobody’s talking about this one because it’s only 16 games, but those 16 games have seen Puig walk 12 times and reach base at a .520 clip. He’ll go for number 17 tonight.
Some bullet points for a Singaporean Independence Day:
Forget about how many players would decline invitations. Forget about generational eligibility — if you were born in California, you’re eligible (which is fine, since I had a better chance of making Team Wisconsin anyways). What would that team look like? Could it contend?
The answer is yes.
C: John Jaso, Mariners/Rod Barajas, Diamondbacks
1B: Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers
2B: Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks
SS: Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
3B: Ty Wigginton, Cardinals
LF: Ryan Braun, Brewers
CF: Coco Crisp, A’s
RF: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
DH: Prince Fielder, Tigers
UT: Skip Schumaker, Dodgers
SP: Jered Weaver, Angels
SP: CC Sabathia, Yankees
SP: James Shields, Royals
SP: Cole Hamels, Phillies
SP: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
RP: Sergio Romo, Giants
RP: Brandon League, Dodgers
RP: Addison Reed, White Sox
RP: Dale Thayer, Padres
RP: J.P. Howell, Dodgers
RP: Bryan Shaw, Diamondbacks
RP: Kris Medlen, Braves
Apologies to C.J. Wilson, Mark Trumbo, Michael Young, Will Venable, Brandon McCarthy, Kyle Lohse, Mike Moustakas and Carlos Quentin. Perhaps you can dig into your family tree and find another state to play for.
On to some bullet points:
Some odds and ends from Thursday at Camelback Ranch, the final day before the Dodgers’ position players are expected to report to spring training.
I didn’t include Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano or Ted Lilly on this list, even though one or more of them could wind up pitching out of the ‘pen. Even without them, this is a solid unit on paper with ample depth. The closer situation is fairly clear, but the Dodgers enter the season with more viable options for the ninth inning than they’ve had in recent seasons.
There are a few injury concerns facing this unit, but none are severe. With one exception, the Dodgers’ bullpen should start the season healthy, capable of becoming one of the best in the National League.
Scott Elbert underwent a left elbow arthroscopy today in Los Angeles, leaving the Dodgers without one of their top left-handed relievers to start spring training. He is not expected to be ready by opening day, according to a source.
The 40-minute procedure was performed by team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache after a new area of cartilage damage was discovered and debrided. Elbert, who had a different elbow procedure Sept. 19 that ended his 2012 season, will start his physical therapy in three days and a throwing program in six weeks.
Elbert, 27, went 1-1 with a 2.20 ERA in 43 relief appearances last season. Right-handers hit .170 against him and lefties hit .271 – a strange split for a southpaw. He and J.P. Howell were expected to be the team’s top left-handed relievers.
In a crowded Dodgers bullpen, at least two players’ chances of making the opening day roster just improved.
Left-hander Paco Rodriguez allowed one run in 11 appearances over 6 2/3 innings as a rookie last year, though his control wavered against right-handers in a small sample size (two unintentional walks in 2 2/3 innings). Right-hander Shawn Tolleson had more success against right-handers out of the bullpen as a rookie (.152 batting average) but was atrocious against left-handers (.316). Non-roster invitee Peter Moylan, aiming to re-establish himself after a series of injuries cut short his time in Atlanta, could also grab a spot.
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.