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Marlins trade Neal to Padres


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Marlins trade Neal to Padres

By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com Tickets


JUPITER, Fla. -- The Marlins traded right-handed reliever Blaine Neal to the Padres on Saturday for right-hander Ben Howard, who was then optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque.

Neal, who was in the mix for a reliever spot, was out of options and he was outrighted to Triple-A on Friday. The Padres, who have had interest in Neal, turns 26 on Tuesday.


Howard, 25, has Major League experience with the Padres. Used as a starter, he was 1-3 with a 3.63 ERA last year in 34 2/3 innings. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder, who has a fastball that has reached 94 mph, spent most of last year with Triple-A Portland where he was 7-9 with a 4.55 ERA.


Howard has one more option, which made him more attractive to the Marlins because he can be called up throughout the season.


While Howard has primarily been a starter, Marlins general manager Admin Beinfest says he is being looked at as a reliever.


"We may talk to him about working out of the pen," Beinfest said. "With his stuff, it may work for him. He's always been a starter, and he can be a starter."


Howard is expected to travel to Albuquerque on Sunday, where the Marlins are playing their Triple-A affiliate.


"Howard is a guy who we think is very close to pitching in the big leagues because he's done it," Beinfest said. "And we also like the arm. Other than that, we'll give him an opportunity. Rather than get a guy who is a young prospect, we have a guy who we think is close."


In four games this spring, Howard was 1-1 with a 16.20 ERA, giving up 12 earned runs in 6 2/3 innings.


Neal, who was 0-0 with an 8.14 ERA in 18 games with the Marlins last year, was 1-0 with a 4.82 ERA this spring. He gave up five earned runs in 9 1/3 innings.


The Marlins begin defense of their World Series title on Tuesday, when the season opens at Pro Player Stadium against the Expos.


Beinfest said the Marlins' roster is basically set.


The team has explored the availability of adding relief help through a trade. A name other teams are interested in is backup outfielder Abraham Nunez, who completed a sensational spring with his 10th home run in a 21-13 loss to the Mets on Saturday.


"There has been a lot of scuttle about Nunez this spring," Beinfest said.


The switch-hitting outfielder remains part of the team's plans, and he is expected to be used as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner.

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Another good move for Beinfest. I thought Neal was going to go right into our bullpen and help us out. But apparently, Howard's value is more than Neal's ability right now. I am not sure Neal was ever going to work out, but he did start showing something this ST. But I have heard a lot about Howard in the past, and I am shocked we got him. More pitching depth for the future.

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