Along with the Los Angeles Dodgers getting significant contributions in 2013 from a healhty Hanley Ramirez and a called-up Yasiel Puig, the bullpen was instrumental in the turnaround.
Emerging as one of the more trustworthy arms was J.P. Howell. The left-hander, who was in his first season with the Dodgers, appeared in 67 games and finished with a 2.03 ERA. Howell was particularly effective against left-handed hitters, holding them to a .164 average and recording 36 strikeouts. Right-handed batters didn’t fare much better, hitting .222 and only striking out 18 times.
Howell became a free agent in the off-season and re-signed with the Dodgers on a two-year, $11.25 million deal plus a vesting option. Through 13 appearances this season, Howell is 1-2 with six holds and a 0.90 ERA. When Brian Wilson was reinstated from the disabled list, Paco Rodriguez was optioned to Triple-A, which has left Howell as the lone lefty in the bullpen.
It was a bold decision by Mattingly, who he later explained some of the reasoning behind it — pointing to his trust in Howell to retire hitters on either side of plate. Howell has been relatively immune to the struggles that have fallen on multiple relief pitchers and figures to again play a key role in the Dodgers success this season.
Dodgers Nation wishes J.P. Howell a happy 31st birthday, which hopefully ends with a win over the Colorado Rockies on Friday.
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