Kenny Howell-Putting Polish

The last couple of starts that Edwin Jackson made for the Dodgers quite probably were encouraging enough for them to believe that he could take an effective regular turn in their rotation in 2006. If so, a lot of credit for that can go to Kenny Howell. Howell is the pitching coach at Jacksonville where Jackson was sent after the disaster that was his experience at Las Vegas.

Kenny ironed out some kinks in Edwin's delivery and more than anything tutored him in the mindset that is necessary to succeed up on top. It's the sort of thing he did with any number of pitchers with whom he has worked. Few others are blessed with Jackson's stuff, of course but whether they were they showed marked improvement. That's a good part of the reason why the Suns won the Southern League championship.

Here's Kenny's analysis of some of his pupils:

Chad Billingsley- "The adjustments he made were the best thing. He learned to slow the games down. As they got faster, he was getting faster, too, and first thing you know he'd given up four or five hits for a big inning. He learned to take a step back and do damage control. He was outstanding in many ways- in his preparation, his awareness of what pitches he could work with and what won't working in any particular game."

Jonathan Broxton. "We found that in starting, he was wearing down in the fifth and sixth innings. In putting him in the bullpen, he came in to throw better pitches. His velocity jumped from 95 to 101 because he was able to give maximum effort. He brings a lot to a game including a 92 mph slider."

Eric Hull- "Of all the prospects, he's able to compete with deception from a short arm base . He could establish two pitches and work into the fifth or six before he added his third pitch."

William Juarez- He has a good breaking ball and a below average fast ball. He seemed to elevate his game when we made him a starter. He added a splitter that was a final factor. He could be dominant over lefthanded batters."

Joel Hanrahan- "He came to us fighting delivery problems but worked hard and at the end was throwing the ball very well. The best note was that he hit 93 mph for the first time in a long time. It's been a struggle for him to reach consistency but I think you'll see him get back to what he was before."

Justin Orenduff- "He has plus stuff. What he needs are innings, innings, innings-just to pitch more. This was his first full year and he seemed to get fatigued when he pitched every fifth day. When he got an additional day or two off he was stronger and threw better."

Luis Gonzalez- "He has the ability to pitch in the big leagues. His breaking ball needs to be tightened up . He was strong at the beginning, in the middle and at the end."

Beltran Perez- "I call him my sleeper. You could wake him up at any time and he'd show up and pitch well. He seemed better as a starter than a reliever. He's a competitor who'll give you every ounce of his ability."

Eric Stults- "He caught up to where he was before he got hurt. He has a good fast ball and curve and isn't afraid to throw his change at any time."

Richard Bartlett- "It was a learning year for him about himself, the league and his delivery. He should repeat here to show himself to be the kind of pitcher that he can be."

Greg Miller- "I think he'll be a situational lefty in the big leagues next year. He was off for such a long time that I don't think he's ready to be a starter yet. He was throwing his fast ball and curve from different arm slots so we got him to throw both from one slot just a little above three-quarters so batters can't pick it up."

Hong-Chi Kuo - "He's right where he belongs (in the big leagues). He's learned how to warm up with a few pitches and also to be able to bounce back and be available the next day. You know when a pitcher gets hurt like he did, it's a feeling he never had before and doesn't want to feel again so he can be hesitant. He's learned that he can go out and trust his stuff."

In all, it was a group that came to AA with considerable promise and most will be leaving with even more than that.

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