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Springer Provides Relief for Angels' Ailing Bullpen

August 06, 1994|JOHN WEYLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — While former closer Joe Grahe is talking about becoming a starter again and current closer Mark Leiter is lamenting a blown save Thursday night, Russ Springer is quietly becoming the Angels' most effective relief pitcher.

Friday night, Springer held the Chicago White Sox at bay for 1 1/3 innings during the Angels' 5-3 victory to pick up the first Angel save at Anaheim Stadium since he earned one July 20 against the Red Sox. That was also the last time the Angels won at home.

"Wow, I didn't realize it had been that long," Springer said. "I knew it had been quite awhile, but that's a long time ago. It's great to win one, though, and look at all those smiling faces. Even the postgame spread tastes better after a win."

The Angels have been on a steady diet of losses here, thanks primarily to a wealth of poor pitching. But Springer, who owns the longest scoreless streak by an Angel reliever this season (12 2/3 innings), has been the pleasant exception to the rule. In 11 relief appearances, Springer is 1-0 with two saves and a 1.53 earned-run average.

"He's been really good out of the bullpen," Manager Marcel Lachemann said. "When you're coming out of the pen, you don't have to worry about going through the lineup a couple of times, you don't have to set things up or worry about finesse.

"He's got a good arm and he can just get after it."

Springer was recalled from Vancouver--where he was 7-4 with a 3.04 ERA as a starter--June 9 and made five starts for the Angels, compiling a 1-2 mark with a bloated 7.40 ERA.

The Angel coaching staff had been trying to get Springer to come over the top more with his delivery, but when Lachemann told Springer he was removing him from the starting rotation, he also told him he could return to his three-quarter delivery.

"I really wasn't that disappointed because of the combination of the two things," Springer said. "And now I feel really comfortable down there. I like coming to the park and putting on my spikes every day, knowing I might get into the game.

"And I also think I'm pitching better because I don't get rusty. I've either been up throwing or in five of the last seven games and I just have a feel for the (mound)."

Springer was clearly in the groove Friday night. He relieved starter Chuck Finley with Julio Franco on first and two out in the eighth inning and got Darrin Jackson to pop out to center.

Lance Johnson, leading off the ninth, reached first on a throwing error by third baseman Spike Owen. But Springer maintained his composure, striking out pinch hitters Joey Cora and Ozzie Guillen. He walked pinch hitter Warren Newson, but the game ended when Tim Raines flied to left.

"I like the mentality of being able to go in and just let it fly," Springer said. "You don't have to hold anything back and that suits me."

If it suits Springer, it also suits the Angels. After all, they've often come up short when it comes to short relief.

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