After a series of disastrous appearances, Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia made the correct move in demoting closer Ernesto Frieri and inserting veteran set-up guy Joe Smith to that role. Smith stepped up and was brilliant, recording three saves in three attempts, shutting out the opponent in each game. But then what does Scioscia do? He goes back to Frieri in a key ninth inning spot, and the results last night were frustrating and unacceptable for Angels’ fans
After giving up seven runs, all earned, in 3-2/3 innings over five appearances, including the April 25 explosion in Washington when he blew a three-run ninth inning lead, Scioscia announced that Frieri needed to work in “lower-leverage situations” to get back on track, and that Smith would now be closing.
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|Working in those "lower-leverage situations" Frieri pitched much better, working in five of them and holding teams scoreless, and hitless, over 4-2/3 innings. Then, despite Smith's success, when it came to the ninth inning in a tie game last night - granted not a save opportunity, but just as important and just as much a time for the closer to be the guy - Scioscia gave the ball not to Smith, but to Frieri.|
In case you missed it, after retiring the first two batters, 36-year-old Brian Roberts, the long-time Orioles’ second baseman, then hit his first ever home run in a yankee uniform, for a 4-3 New York win and a crushing loss to LA, who had earlier in the game lost a 2-0 lead.
Through Frieri’s career as the Angels’ closer he has at times been absolutely brilliant, but he has had streaks when he has been absolutely terrible. The past few days have shown
that he needs now to pitch in non-pressure situations, and for longer than a single week. Smith needs to be the closer, the ninth inning guy, for the foreseeable future.
This is a critical year for the Angels. Despite injuries to Josh Hamilton and Kole Calboun, the team's offense has improved significantly over last year, the young starting pitching is showing signs of future success that could not be said of the re-treads that occupied much of the rotation last year, and the team has avoided the terrible start of a season ago. Despite the hot starts by Texas and Oakland, the
Mike, don’t ruin that with avoidable losses due to some sense of loyalty to Frieri. Smith is now your closer. Period.