Blaine Neal went 1-0 with a 4.82 ERA over eight games this spring. He spent most of the 2003 season with Florida's Triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque, going 3-2 with a 2.33 ERA (12 ER/46.1 IP) over 40 games with the Isotopes. Overall, he has been a very effective closer in the minors, but has never translated that success over to the majors.
The 25-year-old right hander also appeared in 18 games for the Marlins last season, going 0-0 with an 8.14 ERA. Selected in the fourth round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft, Neal has a career 3-0 record with a 5.01 ERA in 54 appearances over parts of three Major League seasons with Florida (2001-03).
Neal had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in October of 2003 and is back to health.
Originally selected in the second round of the 1997 First-Year Player Draft, Ben Howard went 1-1 with a 16.20 ERA (12 ER/6.2 IP) in four spring games (one start) for the Padres. Howard made six starts for San Diego last season, going 1-3 with a 3.63 ERA (34.2 IP/14 ER). He spent the remainder of the campaign at Triple-A Portland where he posted a 7-9 mark and a 4.55 ERA (66 ER/130.2 IP) in 22 starts.