Al Alburquerque could bring Halos monster back-end of bullpen

Although he did not pitch badly this Spring, Al Albuequerque was optioned to the minors Tuesday by the Los Angeles Angels. John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Although he did not pitch badly this Spring, Al Albuequerque was optioned to the minors Tuesday by the Los Angeles Angels. John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports /

Bugs Bunny missed his left turn at Albuquerque, but the Los Angeles Angels weren’t going to miss out on hard-throwing right-hander Al Alburquerque.

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Last month, the team signed the 29-year-old to a one-year deal worth $1.1 million in base salary with additional incentives included in his contract.

It was a solid move by the Halos, who needed to add another piece to the bullpen after trading Trevor Gott to the Washington Nationals this offseason. Alburquerque now has the chance to add a dynamic 1-2-3 combo in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings with Joe Smith and Huston Street.

Even if he doesn’t take a permanent role in the 7th inning, Alburquerque brings depth and gives Mike Scioscia options that include Fernando Salas and Mike Morin at the back-end of the bullpen.

Alburquerque also brings the value of experience to the Halos. He spent all five years of his Big League career with the Detroit Tigers, in which he has compiled a 17-6 record with a 3.20 ERA, striking out 276 and walking 125.

Last year he produced a 4-1 record but showed signs of inconsistency, posting a 4.21 ERA in a career-high 62 innings. His 58 strikeouts were a career-low if you don’t include 2012 in which he only appeared in eight games because of injuries.

That inconsistency led to the Tigers deciding not to offer a contract extension to the right-hander.

But one team’s trash is another’s treasure as the Angels picked him up under the terms of a small contract, much as they have been doing all offseason with players like Geovany Soto, Cliff Pennington, and Daniel Nava.

One thing that helps Alburquerque’s resume standout is his postseason experience, something a number of members of the Angels — let alone the bullpen — lacks.

He’s appeared in 14 postseason games with the Tigers, putting together a 1-1 record with a 4.50 ERA and 14 strikeouts. It’s important to note that he’s allowed six earned runs in those 14 games, half of which came in his postseason debut against the New York Yankees in the 2011 ALDS, where he allowed three earned runs in 0.1 innings.

After pitching in the 2012 playoffs, his most recent postseason appearance was the 2013 ALCS against the Boston Red Sox, a series in which he pitched exceptionally well.

He appeared in all six games, finishing three of them, while allowing only one earned run in four innings with seven punchouts. That kind of relief served the Tigers well, though they lost the series and have only played in one other playoff series since.

In the 2013 postseason, Alburquerque demonstrated tremendous control of the three pitches he has relied on for most of his career: a slider, sinker, and four-seam fastball.

Alburquerque focuses on the movement of his pitches and throws them exceptionally hard. According to Brooks Baseball, his slider averages 86-miles-per-hour and has similar movement to a 12-6 curve. His sinker is thrown much harder (94 mph) and uses outstanding velocity.

These pitches have allowed Alburquerque to compile a career swing-and-miss rate of more than 14 percent, a strong number according to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

Hopefully, Alburquerque can demonstrate that control this season with the Halos. If he can, the Angels will have a pretty solid bullpen that will take a lot of pressure off of the starters to eat up innings.

Alburquerque provides depth and options which is certainly a good problem to have. Expect him to start the season as a late-inning setup man, rather than a matchup-type pitcher. His job will likely be to close the door for Smith and Street to take care of the 8th and 9th innings, or if one of them succumbs to injury, he could move to the 8th inning role Smith has now.

Alburquerque should prove to be a valuable commodity with the Angels.