1988 Dodgers player profile: Ken Howell, team player

Ken Howell - Getty Images

Ken Howell, currently the assistant pitching coach of the Los Angeles Dodgers, was both reinventing himself as a starting pitcher and recovering from off-season surgery at the start of the 1988 season. That put him in position to serve in one small role for the big club that year.

How acquired: In 1982 the Dodgers drafted Howell, a hard-throwing right-hander, in the third round of the amateur draft out of Tuskegee University.

Prior MLB experience: After only about two seasons in the minors, Howell was called up to the Dodgers in late June of 1984 and stayed on the major-league roster through mid-August 1987, at which he point he was demoted to Albuquerque to begin a conversion to a starting pitcher. Over what was approximately three seasons, Howell compiled a 3.94 ERA (91 ERA+) in 190 appearances covering 290 innings, notching 31 saves in the process. He was a strikeout pitcher throughout that time (9.4 K/9), including 104 strikeouts all in relief in 1986, but increasing control problems (5.4 BB/9 for 1986-1987) reduced his effectiveness.

1988 age: 27

1988 stats: 4 games, 12 2/3 IP, 6.39 ERA, in one start, one stint on the disabled list, and three September mop-up appearances. Howell had off-season surgery to remove a small part of his right collarbone, and began 1988 in AAA ball.

Regular season game of the year: On June 16th at 5:40 P.M., the Dodgers faced the Atlanta Braves in the final game of a road trip, which was to be immediately followed (no travel day) by an eight-game, six-day homestand, starting with five games in three days (two doubleheaders) with the Padres. (Rare Dodger Stadium rainouts in April had caused these doubleheaders to be scheduled.) Reinforcements for the starting pitchers was going to be necessary at some point, so the Dodgers planned ahead and recalled Howell to make this start in a "house-money" game - Los Angeles had already won the first two games of this series. In a classic "take one for the team" performance, Howell suffered the loss while allowing nine runs (eight earned), on 15 hits. But he went six full innings despite hurting his left knee in a home-plate entanglement with Dale Murphy, with only one other arm getting used that day, thus also sparing the bullpen extra work. That knee did lead him to the disabled list two days later. Who knows, perhaps without that spot start by Howell, the starting rotation works out differently Orel Hershiser isn't in position for his phenomenal late-season run.

NLCS performance: Not on the 1988 playoff roster. Howell's only postseason experience was throwing two scoreless innings in 1985 against the Cardinals.

World Series performance: Not on the 1988 World Series roster.

Post-1988 playing career: In late 1988 Howell was traded with Brian Holton and Juan Bell as the package for first baseman Eddie Murray of the Orioles. Baltimore flipped Howell four days later in exchange for outfielder Phil Bradley of the Phillies. Howell made 50 starts in about 1 1/2 seasons with Philadelphia before his arm gave out, leading to two (more) shoulder surgeries and ultimately the end of his major-league career. He ended his playing career with the then-independent San Bernardino Spirit team in the California League, where he had a teammate named Abdiel O. Cumberbatch.

Where he is now: Howell is currently the Dodgers assistant pitching coach for 2013. He began serving as a minor-league pitching coach for the Dodgers in 2002, and has been the bullpen coach at the major-league level for the last five seasons.

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