Bullpen Issues Hit Both Dodgers and Angels

The Angels went into the 2014 season relying on the continued success of Ernesto Frieri as their closer. Frieri has held that spot for Mike Scioscia since his acquisition in late 2012, and while he had one very rough spot last season, losing but then regaining his role, he did record the save in 60 of 67 chances over the past two seasons. This young season is a different story. After ten appearances, Frieri has an ERA of 9.35, a 0-2 won-lost record, and two blown saves in four chances. Worse yet, in only eight and two-thirds innings pitched, he has allowed five home runs. Scioscia has announced that once again he’s pulled the plug, and newcomer Joe Smith is, as of now, the closer.

Smith has always been a set-up guy through his career, recording only a total of three saves over more than 400 appearances. But he has had a solid career in that spot, and,

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really, who else do the Angels have? Add up the career saves of the rest of the team’s bullpen, Jose Alvarez, Michael Kohn, Yoslan Herrera, Matt Shoemaker, Kevin Jepson and Dane De La Rosa, and you get a grand total of five. Smith was the only real bullpen pick up of the off season, but not for the role he now has been handed. Improvements to the starting staff and to the offense will all go for naught if they do no have a solid ninth inning guy to preserve a lead. The Angels’ 2014 season depends on it.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, have a deep

bullpen, with a variety of veterans who have been successful closers in the past, and at least one rising talent who will be in the future. This is in addition to the guy who has the job now, and who shows no inclination to give it up any time soon. Kenley Jansen did have a couple of rough outings earlier in the month, but he’s settled down and has been solid as of late, converting eight of eight save opportunities, and striking out 24 batters in his first 13 innings pitched.

In the wings doing sold set-up work are Chris Perez, J.P. Howell, who did have one recent bad outing, Jamey Wright, and Paco Rodriguez, plus Chris Withrow who looks every bit to be the next Jansen. But Brian Wilson is another story. Wilson was the designated eighth inning guy, leading to Jansen for the ninth. Wilson had one perfect inning in Australia, but since has been awful. His

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inability to pinpoint the ball combined with his reduced velocity has spelled doom. A brief stint on the DL for elbow soreness did not help, and he needs either more time to recuperate, if he is still feeling discomfort, or some mop-up duty until he shows that he has returned to form. Perez, Withrow, and the rest can handle the late inning duties, but the team cannot let more games slip away while waiting for the real Brian Wilson to show up.

Today’s Dodgers’ news also features the empty uniform non manager don mattingly lamenting his hearthache in attempting to please four “star” outfielders, and to get them all starts and playing time at a time when NONE of them is actually playing very well. Only one of the four is hitting above above .222, and that is Yasiel Puig at .254. What mattingly failed to mention is that he does have one hot-hitting outfielder, actually batting a robust .296, but he cannot be given playing time equal to that of the others, as Scott Van Slyke is not one of the four high priced “stars”. Too bad.

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