CLEVELAND — Three years after he started at third base in the Angels' "infield of the future," Jack Howell became a part of the Angels' past.
Howell, who lost his starting job when Gary Gaetti was signed last winter and whose utility role vanished in recent weeks, was traded to the San Diego Padres Tuesday for outfielder Shawn Abner.
Howell, 29, was summoned off the field before the Angels' game against the Cleveland Indians, and he immediately went into the clubhouse to pack his gear. He's scheduled to meet the Padres in Philadelphia today.
Abner, 25, was selected by the New York Mets as the first overall pick in the 1984 draft. He was traded to San Diego in December, 1986, after he hit .266 for double-A Jackson.
He was San Diego's opening day center fielder this season but lost that role because of a lack of offense. Abner hit .165 with one home run and five runs batted in in 53 games; his career average is .207 with seven homers and 46 RBIs.
Abner, who is expected to share center field duties with Dave Gallagher while Junior Felix recuperates from a calf muscle injury, was to join the Angels today in Detroit.
Howell, shortstop Dick Schofield, second baseman Mark McLemore and first baseman Wally Joyner were proclaimed the Angels' infield of the '90s in 1988 by then-general manager Mike Port. McLemore was sent to the Indians last year to complete the Ron Tingley trade.
After starting only one game since July 1, Howell asked Angel Senior Vice President Dan O'Brien to investigate trade possibilities. O'Brien obliged, making a deal he said developed within the past few days.
"Jack Howell is really a first-class citizen and he always gives 100%, but on the other hand, I think it was evident that he wasn't going to play here," O'Brien said. "I think it became obvious to him that Gary Gaetti would be our regular third baseman for years to come and at the end of the year, he was going to look elsewhere (as a free agent). It was a question of having something at the end of the year or nothing."
Howell hit .228 in 1990 for the second consecutive year and he hit .210 in 32 games this season. He made only seven starts at third, splitting his time between first base, second base, right field, left field and pinch-hitting.
"I knew that the day Gary signed I wouldn't be a major part of their plans, but I felt coming out of spring training, there were a couple of positions where I could get playing time, play two or three times a week," Howell said. "That was the case at first, but throughout the course of the season, things changed.
"I don't hold any grudges. A person has to feel very fortunate to play six years with one team and eight years in the organization. Being with the team that won (the AL West title) in '86, that's something I'll always remember. I'm fortunate that with two months of the season left, I can go somewhere that I can play every day, or play a lot."
Abner also had asked to be traded and was promised a move in early June.
"You know it was hard, the waiting process," Abner said. "I'm the type of guy who can keep it in, but deep down I get hurt. I have no hard feelings for anybody. It was time for me to move on."