VERO BEACH, Fla. — The plan hasn't changed: Dodger reliever Steve Howe won't appear in a game until April.
"Got to keep you in suspense," he said.
But Monday, one day short of 10 weeks since he underwent surgery on his left elbow, Howe pitched batting practice for the first time and was jubilant afterward.
"I feel great, super," he said. "I was doing about 85 (m.p.h.). I turned it loose when I wanted to, and moderated it when I wanted to. (Mike) Marshall said I looked nasty."
And so, by all appearances, Howe is justifying what seemed to be an overly optimistic timetable for recovery set by Dr. Frank Jobe, who re-routed the ulnar nerve in Howe's elbow on Jan. 9.
"I had to come from 0 in 10 weeks and already I'm throwing 80 miles an hour," Howe said. "And I still had a lot left."
The one thing he is lacking, Howe said, is pitching stamina. "I have to build my arm up," he said, "and that comes from throwing.
"My control's there already. The only thing I need to do is control my breaking ball, and I haven't thrown any yet."
Howe has yet to cut loose. Back when he was one of the league's premier left-handers, in 1983, his fastball was clocked in the low 90s. He says he has been clocked at as high as 96. Asked if he'll be back in that range, Howe just winked. "Can't show you everything," he said.
First baseman Franklin Stubbs resumed working out for the first time since he was beaned by a pitcher for South Korea's Samsung Lions last Wednesday. Stubbs took some swings against the pitching machine and also did some running. He said he planned to bat against live pitching again today.
Stubbs sported a discolored bruise under his right eye, but said his vision had not been affected by the beaning, which occurred in a "B" squad game last Wednesday. "I couldn't open the eye, it was so watery," he said, "but there was no double vision." He plans to have his eyes checked later in the week.
Stubbs said this was the first time he'd ever been hit in the head. "I was looking for something away," he said. "The count was two strikes and a ball, and he'd thrown me three straight breaking balls. But he threw me a running fastball that came right in on me."
Stubbs did not lose consciousness. "I knew where I was," he said. "I didn't panic or anything. They just told me to relax and take deep breaths. I'm fortunate the Lord watched over me pretty good."
Fernando Valenzuela threw five innings of one-hit ball, and Pedro Guerrero hit a home run to lead the Dodgers to their fifth straight exhibition win, 2-0, over the Montreal Expos Monday in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Brian Holton and Carlos Diaz threw two scoreless innings each as the Dodgers lowered their staff earned-run average to 1.91. Guerrero's home run, a 350-foot shot, came off Bert Roberge.
Al Oliver, who drove in the Dodgers' other run, had two hits, giving him a seven-game hitting streak. Sid Bream, who started at first base when Greg Brock scratched with a sore elbow, also had two hits.
The Dodgers play the Orioles in Miami today.