Burlington Bees playing well with long-time California Angels star Jack Howell leading the charge

Third baseman Jack Howell #16 of the California Angels, is now the manager of the Single A Burlington Bees. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Third baseman Jack Howell #16 of the California Angels, is now the manager of the Single A Burlington Bees. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) /

When Jack Howell played for the California Angels & later the Anaheim Angels he was a hard-worker who was always striving to get better. Howell always had an infectious spirit that rubbed off on teammates.

Jack Howell has made the transition from California Angels and later playing for the Anaheim Angels to now be a minor league manager for the LA Angels Single-A affiliate Burlington Bees.  For Howell, a long-time Angel player from 1985-1991 and then again from 1996-1997, he has come full circle and is now trying to pass on this passion for the game he played professionally for 15 years.  The Bees seemed to be listening to their manager as they have now won seven of their last 10 games,including Wednesday night’s hard-fought 3-2 victory over their hosts, the Lansing Lugnuts.

The Burlington Bees formula for success is good pitching and strong defense and that has definitely been on display during the team’s recent hot streak.  On Monday night the Bees got a good start from Cole Duensing pitched five innings allowing only one run while striking out six Lake County Captains’ batters (Indians affiliate).  The newest Bee, Gregory Veliz, who was drafted in the recent 2019 Amateur Draft in 15th round out of the University of Miami, pitched two scoreless innings of relief giving and striking out two. Austin Krzeminski also pitched two scoreless innings to close it out and get the save in a 3-1 Bees victory.

“It felt good to get out there and pitch. In the first inning I pitched I was able to get a couple of strikeouts and a pop-up,” said Veliz of his Bees’ debut. “The second inning I worked I got a couple of 3-2 counts and wanted to get a couple more K’s, but I wasn’t able to, but it’s all good. I came out and pitched two hitless inning, I felt good about that.”

On Wednesday night after a seven hour bus trip on Tuesday, the Bees played the first of a three-game series with the Lansing Lugnuts, who are managed by one-time Angel Dallas McPherson.  The Bees most consistent pitcher this season Luis Alvarado took the mound battling through four innings giving up two earned runs and striking out six.

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Alvarado left the game trailing 2-0, but the Bees struck for three runs in the top of the fifth on a Spencer Griffin RBI-single and then Kevin Maitan scored on a Sean Wymer wild pitch to tie the game at 2.  The Bees then took the lead on a Francisco Del Valle ground out that scored Spencer Griffin from third to give the Bees a 3-2 advantage. From there it was again the bullpen that helped cement another victory as they threw five scoreless innings of relief. Three pitchers who have thrown the ball well out of the bullpen Eduardo Del Rosario, Parker Joe Robinson, and Luke Lind kept the Lugnuts at bay.

Eduardo Del Rosario pitched two scoreless innings with three strikeouts. Del Rosario got himself into a jam in the sixth inning allowing Lansing to load the bases with only one out.  but he induced Hunter Steinmetz to ground into an inning-ending double play to end the threat.

“I was just working on slowing the game down and not letting the game get too far ahead of me. With the last batter I got ahead in the count and was able to get the double play ball,” Del Rosario said. “My main focus was trying to spot my fastball that’s what I used to get out of that jam. I just try to get better day-by-day to develop my pitches and get guys out.”

Del Rosario was followed by Parker Joe Robinson who pitched two more scoreless innings with two strikeouts and then Luke Lind picked up the save with a flawless 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout and the Bees had a series-opening victory over the Lansing Lugnuts.

“We got what we wanted to out of Luis Alvarado which was four to five innings. He has been one our top pitchers this season and did a good job battling tonight,” Howell said. “Our bullpen came in and did a great job again. It was really good to see Del Rosario come in and give us two good innings. Parker came in and threw two good innings as well. It was good to have Lind come in and close it out and throw just one inning to get the save. Everybody did their job just the way we wrote it up, it doesn’t always go that way.”

The offensive stars of the game were third baseman Kevin Maitan who went 2 for 5 with a run scored and left fielder Spencer Griffin who went 3 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored.  For Griffin he is just trying to keep up his recent hot stretch.

“I was just going up there trying to find a good pitch to hit and not trying to overcomplicate things. I found a couple of good pitches and put a good swing on them,” the Houston-native Griffin said. “It has been an up and down season, but I’m just trying to improve every day and get better over the last six weeks of the season.”

The Bees played their second game of the series against the Lugnuts on Thursday and dropped a heart-breaker 5-4, but overall Howell has been pleased with the way his team has battled throughout the season.

“We have been really working hard on for our pitcher to control the runs that they allow by limiting the damage to avoid big innings.  “You do that by throwing strikes, pitching away from contact and then bearing down to make tough pitches when you need to,” Howell said. “Our guys have been doing that a lot as of late and that’s why we have been successful recently. We have been losing some close games to start the second half, but I like the fact that we are in those games and have given ourselves a chance to win and recently the games have gone our way.”

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The Bees will play one final game in Lansing on Friday before traveling to Great Lakes to play a three-game series.  Following next Monday’s game the Bees will head home to face Beloit for three games and then its back on the road for five more games against Peoria and Quad City.  If the Bees keep listening to their manager who has had a plethora of major league experience they will continue to be successful.