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Marlins, Padres exchange live arms

 

By Jim Callis

April 3, 2004

 

The Marlins and Padres swapped a pair of young righthanders, both of whom have electric arms but haven't been able to establish themselves in the majors, on Saturday. Florida sent Blaine Neal to San Diego for Ben Howard.

 

Once considered the Marlins' closer of the future, the 25-year-old Neal has gone 3-0, 5.01 in 54 games over parts of three big league seasons. His main weapon is a mid-90s fastball with late movement, and he also throws a tight slider. He still could use more consistency with his slider and with his command. Neal made 40 appearances for Triple-A Albuquerque last year, going 3-2, 2.33 with 21 saves. His ERA was misleading, as opponents hit .303 with one homer against him, and he had a 32-16 strikeout-walk ratio in 46 innings. He also got into 18 games with Florida, posting an 8.14 ERA. Neal had minor elbow surgery in the offseason.

 

Howard, also 25, was a 1997 second-round pick out of a Tennessee high school. He was the lone survivor of the February 2002 car crash that killed Padres outfielder Mike Darr and another passenger. Howard topped out at 99 mph before injuring his elbow in June 2002, and now pitches from 91-95 mph. He also uses a slider and changeup, which showed improvement last season. He doesn't repeat his delivery consistently, which can lead to difficulty throwing strikes. When he dials down his velocity to find the zone, he can get hit hard if he's not precise. Both those problems cropped up this spring, when he had a 16.20 ERA in big league camp with San Diego. Howard went 7-9, 4.55 in 22 starts with Triple-A Portland in 2003, missing a month with a left knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery. He received a late-August promotion to the majors, going 1-3, 3.63 in six starts. He limited opponents to a .235 average, but a whopping 10 of their 31 hits were homers. In 35 innings, he had a 24-15 K-BB ratio. His career big league record is 1-4, 4.96 in nine games.

 

at first look it sais "wash" all over it but what we gain is options on Howard...

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