The Angels bullpen was projected to be its weakest point this season and they have not disappointed. A group that was one of the worst in baseball a year ago picked up right where they left off, blowing their first six save opportunities. There’s been turnover and shuffling, and the team even added a new arm via trade last week, but the group has been dreadful this season, posting an 0-6 record with a 4.68 ERA. The group is short on reliable relief pitchers, and the Angels may now be even shorter.
During the Angels series finale against Toronto on Sunday, Scott Downs, who hasn’t given up a run in 11 appearances this season, came down awkwardly on his leg when he tried to avoid a single up the middle by J.P Arencibia and ended up having to leave the game. Downs was in the game as the closer, a role he moved into earlier this season when the club demoted young Jordan Walden to more of a middle relief role. Downs has been the most consistent arm out of the bullpen and one of the few that has been able to close out leads. The team has diagnosed Downs with a knee contusion and are listing him day to day. He avoids the DL for now, but did not make the trip to Minnesota with the team to undergo some additional tests in Anaheim before joining the team late Monday night.
To make matter worse, the man who came in to replace Downs yesterday, LaTroy Hawkins, also suffered an injury in the game. Hawkins, who has givein up just one run in 10 games this season, reacted to a line drive from Omar Vizquel and caught the ball, but not before it had hit and bounced off his pitching hand. Hawkins was able to double off the runner at first, ending the game and earning his first save since 2009, but Hawkins later tweeted a picture of his right littler finger in a splint, confirming that he had fractured the finger. The Angels have placed Hawkins on the 15-day DL and recalled David Pauley from Triple-A Salt Lake, who has posted a 2-0 record with a 2.29 ERA in the minors.
Until the Angels know how long they’ll be without the services of Downs, the team has announced that they’ll be using newly acquired Ernesto Frieri or the displaced Walden in close situations. Frieri has not been a closer before and is regarded as being more of a setup man, and Walden’s struggles are well-known to Angels fans. After leading the league in blown saves last season with 10, Walden looked wobbly in the role this season, eventually being demoted after giving up a walk-off home run in a loss to Tampa Bay. Neither are what you could consider sure things.
Just when things looked to be starting to get settled in the bullpen, a new hiccup comes along to overturn the whole setup. Hopefully, Frieri has the mentality to close out games or Walden responds super positively to getting demoted and then re-promoted in a matter of weeks. The shaky bullpen has been no friend to a team that has stumbled out of the gate, and this latest shakeup won’t improve matters. Get well soon, Scott Downs.