Howell outstanding as Royals even series

Howell outstanding as Royals even series

PHOENIX -- Royals left-hander J.P. Howell spent the hours before his Major League debut pacing between the clubhouse and the dugout.

"I was fidgety. I tried to take a nap and that wasn't working so I pretty much was just trying to relax and act like it was a normal game like I pitched in college or the Minor Leagues," he said.

Oddly enough, Howell got his first at-bat in the Majors before throwing his first pitch. With the bases loaded, he scorched a line drive that Arizona third baseman Troy Glaus grabbed for the third out.

With that out of the way and staked to a three-run lead, Howell got to the mound and stopped fidgeting. He quickly got into his comfort zone and earned the victory as the Royals knocked off the Diamondbacks, 8-5, on Saturday night at Bank One Ballpark.

Howell pitched five shutout innings and then was pulled after Glaus led off the sixth with a single. The Diamondbacks got a couple of hits off reliever Andrew Sisco and Glaus scored, the run charged to Howell.

But that was it. He gave up just four singles, walked two, hit a batter and struck out eight. The strikeouts tied a club record for the most by a pitcher in his debut, matching current broadcaster Paul Splittorff's eight against the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 23, 1970.

Howell's mind was so chock full of things that it was empty.

"A lot of emotions are going on, a lot of things going through my head," Howell said. "There's so much going through your head that nothing's going through your head because it's chaos. Things are going so fast. It's a lot faster game up here than where I played."

Where Howell played this season was Class A High Desert, Double-A Wichita and Triple-A Omaha. He raced through the system in just over two months.

"The kid pitched very well. He's got to be very proud," manager Buddy Bell said. "He went after all the hitters. I was concerned when he got to the second time around the lineup because big league hitters tend to figure things out, but he did just as well."

Howell was matched against an old roommate from the University of Texas, left-hander Brad Halsey. They weren't teammates, but roomed together for about two weeks while Howell looked for permanent digs after transferring to UT in 2003.

"We hung out all fall, too, and I got to know him pretty well. He's a great guy and it was nice to pitch against him. That's another thing that made me feel comfortable -- a familiar face on the other side," Howell said.

That three-run first inning did wonders for Howell, too. Emil Brown drove in a run with the first of his three doubles and Terrence Long ripped a two-run single. The bases were loaded when Howell came up and bid for what might have been a three-run double down the left-field line. Glaus's glove intervened.

"The at-bat helped me out, too," he said. "I was out there way nervous but I was trying not to show it."

The 22-year-old Howell also was helped by support from his teammates.

"There was a lot of spice going on. They were excited for me and I really felt that," he said.

   John Buck  /   C
Born: 07/07/80
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

When John Buck belted a two-run homer in the seventh, the Royals had a 7-1 lead. The Diamondbacks bit into that margin when Tony Clark and Shawn Green belted back-to-back home runs off reliever Mike Wood in the eighth.

Later in the inning, Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin protested the game after a double play by the Royals. Third baseman Mark Teahen knocked down Alex Cintron's liner which umpire Greg Gibson first ruled a catch, then no-catch, then a catch, according to Melvin. That confused the runners, Melvin contended.

Meantime, Teahen stepped on third and threw to second base for an inning-ending double play. Replays clearly showed the ball squirted out of his glove.

"Either way, we get a double play," he said.

In the ninth, closer Mike MacDougal squirmed through a two-run inning before finally ending the game. On Friday night, MacDougal gave up a game-winning home run to Glaus after the Royals had rallied for an 11-11 tie.

"This was a huge win for us, considering what happened last night," Bell said. "Because we spent a lot of energy in that."

The Royals got 18 hits -- four by Brown and three each by Buck, Long, David DeJesus and Tony Graffanino. Fourteen hits came against Halsey in his six-plus innings. Howell found his friend's outing instructive.

"He didn't have his stuff but he hung in there pretty good. And that's why he's here. I learned stuff from him tonight because he dialed the whole time, he didn't give in, he didn't quit," Howell said.

Next for Howell? If the rotation schedule holds, he'd be matched next Friday night against another ex-UT pitcher from the Houston Astros. A fellow named Roger Clemens.

"That would be nice," Howell said. "Well, maybe. Maybe not. But how crazy would that be?"

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