Dodger Notebook : Ken Howell Is Learning His Trade

Times Staff Writer

After two full seasons with the Dodgers, reliever Ken Howell hopes he finally has become a pitcher. What Howell has been, in his own estimation, was simply someone who threw hard.

"I'm getting guys to swing at the pitches I want them to, not hitting the ones they want to, and that's pitching," said Howell, who blew away the New York Mets in the ninth inning here Tuesday to preserve the Dodgers' 2-1 exhibition victory. "That is the whole key to what I do."

Too many times in the last two seasons, Howell has failed to provide relief because he fell behind the batters, who then knew to expect one of his 90 m.p.h. fastballs. If Howell's performance Tuesday and in other spring appearances is an indication, he truly has learned to pitch.

"He can be awesome if he gets his breaking ball over," Ron Perranoski, the Dodger pitching coach, said. "He used to just grab the ball and throw. . . . There's nothing mechanically wrong with his pitching anymore. Mentally, he's just got to challenge the hitters and use more than the fastball."

Tuesday, Howell had both an effective fastball and curve. He struck out Clint Hurdle and Kevin McReynolds, and forced Darryl Strawberry to ground out to third.

It was the first save for Howell since Sept. 3 at Montreal.

However, he promised more.

"Staying ahead in the count is the whole key," Howell said. "I did that today, and that makes it a short job and I can come back tomorrow and feel a lot stronger than if I had gone two or three innings.

"I believe I've learned how to pitch. I'm not afraid now to go inside on a batter or use the breaking ball. Mentally, I'm not going to beat myself anymore. They're going to have to beat me."

There were two developments Tuesday in the Dodgers' trade talks.

Al Campanis, the club's vice president, was in nearby Clearwater to scout the Philadelphia Phillies' game against the Cincinnati Reds. The Dodgers are interested in either Gary Redus or Milt Thompson, both Phillie center fielders, and the Phillies have frequently scouted Dodger pitcher Alejandro Pena.

Meanwhile, in Vero Beach, Dodger pitcher Jerry Reuss did not post good numbers pitching for San Antonio, the Dodgers' Double-A team, in a game against Albuquerque, the club's Triple-A team.

Reuss, who also has been mentioned in trade talk, was pitching in the minor league game because there aren't enough spring games to use all the Dodger pitchers, according to Perranoski.

Reuss worked seven innings, giving up four runs and nine hits. He threw 96 pitches.

Dodger Notes Pedro Guerrero left Tuesday's game in the eighth inning because of what the Dodgers called tendinitis in his right knee--not the knee he injured so badly last spring. Guerrero had led off the inning with a double down the right-field line and limped into second base. He was replaced by pinch-runner Mike Ramsey. Bill Buhler, the Dodger trainer, said that Guerrero's condition is neither new nor serious. "I think he's going to have it, on and off, for a long time," Buhler said. Guerrero said his right knee is not an issue. "I was going to come out (of the game) anyway," he said.

Bob Welch pitched 4 shutout innings before having to leave with a cramp in his right calf. Welch, making his first appearance in a regular game, allowed only three hits and struck out six before he felt pain in his calf with two out in the fifth inning. Buhler also said that Welch's problem is not serious. "As the game got going today, I was able to get my breaking ball going and I felt good about that and that I still had a little pop left (in his fastball) in the last inning," Welch said. "I still have a few more starts to get ready."

Mike Marshall, bothered for the last three days with the flu, was scheduled to play Tuesday but was a late scratch because he still felt ill. Marshall may be able to play today, when the Dodgers play the Cincinnati Reds in Tampa. Tim Leary is expected to start for the Dodgers against the Reds' Mario Soto. . . . Dave Anderson, still resting his sore back, did not make the two-day trip with the club. Pat Screnar, the Dodgers' physical therapist, said Anderson's condition is improving.

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