LOS ANGELES -- One day reliever J.P. Howell is reading a book written by his wife to preschoolers, and the next day he's drawn into the national discussion over bullying.
"Dude, I don't know how it happened," said Howell, who said an interview he gave while making a Thursday appearance has spun out of control.
In the interview with the Los Angeles Times, it was written that Howell said he saw teammate Yasiel Puig bullied in the Dodgers' clubhouse. On Friday, Howell insisted that's not what he said.
"Not in the clubhouse, never by teammates," he said. "I was asked if Puig had been bullied and I said yes, but I meant by fans and media and people on the outside that don't know him. Never in the clubhouse. Are you kidding? People early in the season said our clubhouse wouldn't have chemistry, and it turned out to be an awesome clubhouse -- everybody got along."
Howell, now a free agent, said the misunderstanding of his comments has been magnified because of bad timing, as the topic has been in the national spotlight in the wake of the Miami Dolphins incident.
The interview triggered additional media coverage, and the Dodgers responded by issuing this statement:
"Bullying is an issue we take very seriously. We've discussed this with Yasiel and he has assured us that he is comfortable with the clubhouse environment as well as his teammates, coaches and support staff. As an organization, we will continue to be proactive in monitoring what goes on in and around our clubhouse."
Said Howell: "When I was asked about Puig, I just wanted to use him as an example that not only preschoolers get bullied. It's a problem in our society, and I just wanted the kids to know not to stay silent, that it's wrong and you should say something, and it can happen to anybody at any age. It happened to me."
If anything good comes from the mini-drama, Howell said, it would be an increasing awareness of the program he and his wife, Heather, are undertaking, with more information available on discoveryourpath.com. Heather wrote the children's book "Dangles," a lesson of friendship taught by a stuffed monkey and inspired by a gift J.P. gave to Heather.
"What we're trying to do with Discover Your Path is help kids find their way," said Howell. "In L.A., there are tough places. This just shines a light on a problem that a lot of kids have trouble dealing with. I don't know how this all got twisted, and it's too bad it got spun like that."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com.