ARLINGTON, TEX., JAN. 17 -- Pitcher Steve Howe, 29, who has been suspended from baseball five times since 1983 because of cocaine use, was released by Texas today because the Rangers said he failed to comply with his drug recovery program.

Rangers General Manager Tom Grieve would not say if there was evidence of drug use by Howe but said the violation was serious.

"We are deeply saddened for Steve Howe and his family that he has been unable to abide by the requirements of his after-care program," Grieve said in a statement. "The Rangers signed Steve Howe last July because we believed he had demonstrated a strong commitment to his own recovery, and we felt an obligation to give him the chance to turn his life around and resume his baseball career. We are saddened that it did not work out."

Grieve said Howe missed a voluntary workout Wednesday, but that was not the reason for his dismissal.

"Sometime between Wednesday and now, a violation of his after-care program occurred," Grieve told United Press International. "It was a severe violation, and based on the integrity of the contract we signed with him, we were forced to make this decision. He made the decision to violate the after-care program."

The Rangers signed Howe in July to a contract with their minor league team in Oklahoma City. After owner Eddie Chiles called him up Aug. 6 without the approval of Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, the team was fined $250,000.

Howe was 3-3 with a 4.31 ERA in 24 games with the Rangers last year and signed a guaranteed two-year contract Oct. 29. His major league record is 29-31 with a 2.70 ERA in 266 games.

He said the team and Sam McDowell, a former major league pitcher who works as a substance abuse counselor, would continue to assist Howe with drug counseling if he requested it.

Neither Howe nor his agent, John Lence, were available for comment.