Notes: Howell ready for the big time

Notes: Howell ready for the big time

PHOENIX -- Everything is almost too good to be true about left-hander J.P. Howell's debut in the Major Leagues.

When he takes the mound Saturday night against Arizona, he'll be the second-fastest player to jump from signing with the Royals to playing for them. The fastest was outfielder Bo Jackson, who signed in June 1986, and made his debut in September.

Howell's family will be coming from Sacramento, Calif., to watch him.

And he'll be pitching against another former University of Texas left-hander, Brad Halsey. Howell and Halsey never played together for the Longhorns but they were close, nevertheless.

"Actually, he was my roommate in the fall when I first came to UT," Howell said.

Halsey ended his Texas career in 2002, when the Longhorns won the national championship. Howell pitched for them in 2003 and 2004 and did a Texas-sized job -- his cumulative record was 25-4 with a 2.31 ERA and 271 strikeouts in 249 2/3 innings.

A year ago, Howell was the Royals' choice in the "sandwich round" between the first and second rounds of the First-Year Player Draft.

He was 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA for Class A Idaho Falls last year. This season, he zipped through Class A High Desert, Double-A Wichita and Triple-A Omaha like a runaway freight train.

"It's better than being a slow one, that's for sure," Howell said. "I was fortunate that Allard [Baird] and Shaun McGinn pulled the trigger on me. That has a lot to do with why I'm here. You don't see that everywhere. Sometimes a guy is doing well and they don't pull the trigger, and that's just how it is."

Howell's combined record for the three teams was 6-1 with a 2.34 ERA. He's coming off his only start for Omaha, a victory in which he gave up seven hits and three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings.

Baird, the Royals' general manager, and McGinn, the senior director of Minor League operations, decided to get Howell into the youth movement swim immediately.

"At this point, he's still developing fastball command," Baird said. "He has an above-average curveball and a quality split-finger. A poised kid. He was an advanced college pitcher when we took him."

Howell said his fastball usually is in the 83 to 89 mph range. So he has to move the ball around and hit his spots.

"If you don't hit 94, you've got to hit a spot," he said.

Howell replaces right-hander Ryan Jensen, who was designated for assignment.

One more thing about Howell's biggest day: In a National League city, he'll get to hit in a game for the first time since high school.

"I'm anxious, but I'm more anxious to hit, I think, than to pitch. It's been a while," Howell said.

"And playing against a former UT guy. It's going to be a blast, man."

Anderson's progress: Left-hander Brian Anderson, on the disabled list with a sore elbow, might have discovered what has caused his pain.

While throwing on Thursday, pitching coach Guy Hansen noticed that Anderson's long tosses were being made with an almost overhand delivery. So Anderson lowered his arm slot, and the elbow felt much better.

So good, in fact, that athletic trainer Nick Swartz has cleared him to throw again Saturday instead of Sunday as planned.

   Brian Anderson  /   P
Born: 04/26/72
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 185 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: L

Back at the BOB: Anderson, who played five years for the Diamondbacks, is a fan of Bank One Ballpark.

"Just so many good memories. I remember the fans were great and right off the bat, we had good support. It's a great ballpark. You come in and it's 100-plus degrees and you have the air-conditioning. Sometimes the roof is open, sometimes it's closed and you get to play on grass at the same time, which is awesome," Anderson said.

"It's just a state-of-the-art facility. I had a lot of good outings here, a lot of not-so-good outings and we won a world championship on this field. So that's always going to be a special place."

Catcher John Buck, after taking batting practice at the BOB for the first time, liked the hitting background.

"To the batter's eyes, it's green. Just a big, old green wall," Buck said. "You can see the ball real well."

Center fielder David DeJesus compared it with San Francisco's SBC Park, the Royals' previous stop.

"It's big out there, just like San Francisco. There's a lot of room to cover out there," he said.

Gordon hitless in win: Alex Gordon, whom the Royals selected Tuesday with the second overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft, was unable to measure up to his normal offensive output Friday afternoon in Nebraska's 3-1 win over Miami at the Lincoln NCAA Super Regional.

Gordon entered the game with a .382 batting average, but finished 0-for-3 with a walk against Hurricanes ace Cesar Carrillo. Of course, only four Huskers collected even just one hit against Carrillo, who was snapped up by the Padres with the 18th overall pick.

Gordon and the Huskers need more win to advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

Stemle has spasms: Right-hander Steve Stemle was called to relieve Zack Greinke in the fifth inning Friday night, but couldn't make a pitch. He suffered muscle spasms in the left side of his back while warming up.

The Royals had to rush Mike Wood into the game to replace Stemle.

Depending on the extent of his injury, it might make it easier for the Royals to make a roster move to clear space for Howell. Stemle could be placed on the disabled list.

Draft picks sign: The Royals announced the signing of 15 players selected Tuesday and Wednesday in the First-Year Player Draft.

The top pick signed was from the fourth round, center fielder Joseph Dickerson of Esperanza (Calif.) High School. The others are:

Round 7: LHP Brent Fisher, Tolleson Union (Az.) High.
Round 8: C Nicholas Doscher, Moore Catholic (N.Y.) High.
Round 9: C Kiel Thibault, Gonzaga (Wash.).
Round 10: C Jeffrey Howell, Florida Southern College.
Round 11: RHP Michael Penn, University of Michigan.
Round 18: RHP Paul Raglione, Grant (Ore.) High.
Round 21: RHP David Henninger, Messiah (Pa.) College.
Round 25: RHP Kevin Bulger, College of Charleston (S.C.).
Round 27: 1B Jase Turner, Pomona-Pitzer (Calif.) College.
Round 28: RF Felix Peguero, Oklahoma Baptist.
Round 29: RHP Brandon Brantley, University of Science & Arts at Oklahoma.
Round 30: 2B Jeremy Jirschele, Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
Round 31: SS Pedro Lopez, Universidad del Turabo (Puerto Rico).
Round 34: C Oscar Marrero, Juan Antonio Corretjer Superio (Puerto Rico).

On deck: The Royals will meet the Diamondbacks in the second game of the series at 8:40 p.m. CT Saturday.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.