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Ken Howell, nicknamed "Raven", was a Dodger reliever for five years. Possessing a blazing fastball, Howell battled Tom Niedenfuer for the role of Dodger closer during the mid-80’s. Unfortunately for Ken and the Dodgers, Howell never was able to become the dominant pitcher the Los Angeles’ management had hoped for.
Ken started out in the Dodger organization in 1982 at Vero Beach. The youngster went 5-4 in eleven appearances (all starts) and soon Howell was moved up to AA San Antonio for the 1983 season. Ken started twenty-seven contests and won eight games for the Missions. After going 8-2 with Albuquerque during the first half of the ’84 season, Ken was called up to the majors. Howell had started out the season in the starting rotation for the Dukes, but he was soon being groomed to come out of the bullpen. His last nine appearances in the minors were all in relief.
Upon being called up in July, Howell appeared in 32 games for the Dodgers, all in relief except for one. Five wins and six saves with an earned run average of 3.33 looked good for a rookie reliever. Even more impressive was 54 strikeouts in 51 innings.
By spring of 1985, Howell was challenging the erratic Niedenfuer for the role of Dodger closer. The pair shared the role during the campaign. Howell saved 11 games for the Blue and Niedenfuer saved 19 to give the Dodgers a solid bullpen combination. A 3.77 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 86 innings were decent work for the sophomore hurler.
In 1986, Howell began to slump. Though he appeared in 62 games and registered 12 saves, he also led the National League in losses in relief. Amazingly, Ken LOST 12 games out of the bullpen…..we’re not talking just blown saves here, we are talking twelve losses in relief (is this a major league record?)
By 1987, Howell was struggling. His ERA as up to 4.91 and he recorded one save. When the Dodgers acquired Jay Howell over the winter of ’87, Ken’s days were numbered. He spent virtually the entire 1988 season in the minors, working on becoming a starting pitcher again. With Jay Howell in the bullpen, the Dodgers managed to win the World Series without him.
On December 4, 1988 the Dodgers traded pitcher Brian Holton and infelder Juan Bell along with Howell to the Baltimore Orioles for firstbaseman Eddie Murray. Four days later, the Orioles swapped Howell to the Phillies for outfielder Phil Bradley. The Phillies put Howell into the starting rotation and he responded by winning 12 games and pitching over 200 innings for the last place team. In 1990 he won eight more, but his ERA skyrocketed and he was released at the end of the season.
He was only 29 and never played in the majors again.
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