Los Angeles Angels: The Battle of the Setup Men
The Los Angels Angels have a number of position battles that will be intriguing for the spring, but where do the setup men come into play?
Well, the back of the bullpen is in order for sure: Huston Street is the closer.
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There’s really no way around that.
Street is in the middle of a two-year, $18 million extension and saved 40 games to compliment his 3.18 ERA in 2015, his first full year with the Halos.
That means the more intriguing battle is that of the setup men, the pitchers who will come in for the 7th and 8th innings ahead of Street.
Joe Smith has proven comfortable in the 8th inning role and has even stepped in as the closer on more than one occasion.
He struggled a bit last year (5-5, 3.58 ERA) but now that he’s healthy he should see his numbers get a little closer to where they were in 2014 when his ERA was a career-low 1.81.
Fernando Salas, Mike Morin, Cory Rasmus, and Cam Bedrosian all bring different skills to the table but none of them are the team’s best options to be a true setup man.
Newcomers to the ‘pen Deolis Guerra and Rob Rasmussen will probably end up as more matchup-type pitchers but there is another newcomer that could challenge Smith in his role as the 8th inning go-to guy.
His name is Al Alburquerque and he will be in a competitive mood while getting a fresh start after a tough 2015 campaign with the Detroit Tigers.
The Tigers, with whom he had spent his entire career, didn’t negotiate his contract with him after he went 4-1 with a 4.21 ERA in 62 innings pitched.
The Angels picked him up in a deal that should work for both sides — one-year, $1.1 million in base salary and an incentive of performance bonuses.
We talked about the hard-throwing right-hander earlier this month, and so far we still haven’t had a chance to see him pitch in a Halos uniform.
It will be interesting to see where Mike Scioscia uses him in the bullpen, but for right now he will probably be battling Smith for the setup man role.
I still think that’s Smith’s to lose but if he gets injured and Alburquerque really steps up, the Halos may see a shakeup in the bullpen.
Both of those pitchers bring a lot of experience to the position (14 combined Big League seasons) and could use a big bounce-back year which means they will be looking to start the season on a fresh note, ready to roll.
In a perfect world, I think Alburquerque would create a perfect 1-2-3 punch at the end of games if he were to pitch the 7th with Smith in the 8th and Street in the 9th.
That would be sort of reminiscent to the Francisco Rodriguez–Scot Shields–Troy Percival punch of the early 2000s.
OK, maybe not that intense but it will definitely be interesting to see how these two compete against each other in spring training.
At the end of the day, I still see Smith winning this battle but Alburquerque won’t be far behind.
The Angels first spring training game is March 2.