No Dodgers pitcher has appeared in as many games as Howell, the team's left-handed setup man.
"It looks a lot worse than it is," Howell said. "It's not that bad, actually."
Howell, who leads the first-place Dodgers with a 1.27 earned-run average, knows what bad feels like.
As it turns out, the injury that nearly ended his career might be responsible for extending it. The thought of never pitching again terrified him.
"It was scary, man," Howell said.
Howell, 31, compared his seasons leading up to his injury to pitching in Little League. "I wasn't into working out," he said. "I was just throwing and having fun and being young. I would just show up."
Howell's surgery was performed by famed orthopedic specialist James Andrews. To recover, Howell spent six months rehabilitating at Andrews' medical facility in Birmingham, Ala.
"It was the coolest thing ever, learning about my arm," Howell said.
Howell worked closely with physical therapist Kevin Wilk.
Wilk taught him exercises to strengthen his rotator cuff, as well as his lower body. Howell incorporated those exercises into a pregame routine that he has stayed with.
"I even changed how I eat," he said. "I'm getting older. I have to do the little things now."
For a 7 p.m. home game, Howell arrives at Dodger Stadium around 2:30. His first order of business is to work out his shoulder.
He then takes part in pregame warmups with his teammates, stretching and throwing.
Once batting practice is over and the Dodgers return to the clubhouse, the real work starts.
"I do 10 minutes of sprints, then I do my lower-half lifting," he said. "I do seven reps as heavy as I can go. Then you do core. Then you do sauna. You stretch again. Then it's game time."
Howell is also more studious than he was as a young pitcher. Rather than rely solely on memory and instinct, he prepares for opposing hitters by taking more time to review scouting reports and devise plans of attack.
"I used to go out there and just play," he said.
Howell, who is in his third season with the Dodgers, said he wants to pitch in as many games as possible over the final stretch of the regular season.
"I love it," he said. "This is a great time of year. Football's on. It's just fun. You see the weather starting to change a little bit. This is the whole reason you play, to get the opportunity to go to the playoffs and conquer everybody in the playoffs."
Here's the deal
The Dodgers completed their Aug. 7 trade for Roberto Hernandez, sending minor league right-hander Victor Arano to the