Through a first-seven games that could generously be described as “unfortunate,” the Angels have seen many of the aspects of their team that were supposed to be strengths turn into weaknesses. The starting pitching has been uneven and inconsistent, and the lineup that was supposed to bash the ball all over and out of every ballpark they played in had just three home runs through their first seven games. The one aspect that Halos fans were worried about, the bullpen, however, has lived right up to expectations, blowing two games in Minnesota, and the team is trying to switch it up to try and turn things around.
Before their Saturday game against the Yankees in New York, the Angels designated right-handed reliever Rich Thompson for assignment, according to the Orange County Register. This means the team will have 10 days to trade, waive, or release Thompson. If the reliever clears waivers, then the team can assign him to the minor leagues. Thompson was a strong contributor out of the bullpen for the team last season, posting a 3.00 ERA in 44 games. He pitched 54.0 innings, striking out 56 batters and walking just 20. This year, however, the team hasn’t been impressed with Thompson’s stuff.
“Rich’s stuff just wasn’t as crisp as it was last year and we needed to look at some things in our ‘pen,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Thompson has given up four runs in 5.2 innings pitched over two games this season for an ERA of 15.43. All of the damage came in the series finale in Minnesota when he gave up four runs in the bottom of the eighth to complete the Angels collapse, where they surrendered a 6-0 lead to lose 10-9. Thompson took to his twitter @chopper63 to thank the Angels fans when he got the news this morning, saying “Thanks to all the Angels fans it’s been a pleasure, everyone has treated me with the utmost respect and I appreciate you all.”
Taking Thompson’s place is left-hander Brad Mills, who the Angels acquired from Toronto in a trade involving Jeff Mathis. Mills saw limited time in the big leagues with the Blue Jays, appearing in just 14 games over the last three seasons, posting a 8.57 ERA striking out 45 while walking 31 and earning a 2-3 record in nine career starts. The Angels still see Mills as being on the roster as a starter, according to Scioscia, but he could be replaced in that role when Jerome Williams is activated off the DL tomorrow.
In other bullpen news, left-handed reliever Scott Downs participated in agility drills, played catch, and threw off a mound, testing the right ankle that he injured on Thursday in Minnesota. Downs was diagnosed with just a bruise and avoided getting put on the DL, but wasn’t available today and doesn’t have a specific timetable for his return. Downs says he’s getting better every day and feels he could pitch right now, but is patiently waiting to get the green light from the training staff.
The bullpen has lived up the fears of fans before the season started as being a weak point of this team. With the other aspects of the team coming out to a sluggish start, particularly the starting pitching, more pressure has been put on the relievers of the Angels and the struggles of the pen have been magnified. GM Jerry Dipoto says it’s still too early to panic about the rough start, but the team hopes this small shakeup will give them a steadier presence late in games.