Can the Los Angeles Angels Succeed Without a Reliable Bullpen?

By Jose Serrano

Mar 31, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels manager

Mike Scioscia

pats Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher

Jered Weaver

(36) on the back after lifting him in there 6th inning against the Seattle Mariners in an opening day baseball game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Moments before Mike Zunino launched Angels reliever Fernando Salas’ first pitch over the left field fence, defeat already read across manager Mike Scioscia’s face. The three-run homer last night was salt in the open wound that has epitomized the Angels this season and further proveds that their success rests with an unproven bullpen.

The Seattle Mariners sweep a series in Angels Stadium for the first time since 2006. Angels pitching did little to prevent that, allowing 17 extra-base hits and 15 walks in the three-game set. Scioscia said as much in a post-game press conference Wednesday, acknowledging that Jered Weaver’s Opening Day outing was the team’s only semblance of decent pitching.

Kevin Jepsen gave up back-to-back home ninth inning runs Monday ballooning a one-run game into a seven-run blowout. Tuesday, Michael Kohn put a three-run game further out of reach, gifting Brad Miller with a two-run homer that cleared the out-of-town scoreboard. And while last night’s game was already out of hand before Salas reached the mound, he did nothing to lessen the blow.

The Angels rank last in team ERA (8.33) and have allowed the most runs (25) among American League teams this season. It’s a small sample size but still indicative of problems that have carried over from last year when relievers finished 13th in ERA (4.12) and third in earned runs allowed (226).

With Dane De La Rosa and Sean Burnett still sidelined, the Angels have few reliable options. Even unofficially named closer Ernesto Frieri hasn’t shown an improvement. The Columbian right-hander posted a career-worst in ERA (3.80), hits allowed (55), and home runs (11) last season and despite a solid spring, Frieri already has two home runs on his record in just one inning. He is one of five Angels relievers with an above 6.00 ERA.

The 2014 season is still in its infant stages, but patterns set now are not shaken easily. If Scioscia can’t right the ship now, problems in the back-end of the pitching staff will resonate throughout team and another missed postseason appearance will follow.