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ANGEL REPORT

Rodriguez Is Removed From Setup Role

May 20, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

The rookie-of-the-year campaign has been put on hold, and Francisco Rodriguez has lost his role as Troy Percival's setup man. The youngster who dazzled the world during last year's playoffs is now pitching, well, like a rookie.

Brendan Donnelly, who has not given up an earned run since the American League championship series, is the new setup man. Rodriguez, 21, who tied the major league record with five postseason victories and set another postseason record for strikeouts by a reliever, now has the Angels remembering that he began the playoffs with 5 2/3 innings of major league experience.

In October, he had a 1.93 earned-run average with 28 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings. In spring training, he also had a 1.93 ERA, with 20 strikeouts in 14 innings.

Now he is 4-1 with a 4.98 ERA, and he has given up five runs in his last eight innings. Opponents are hitting .221 off him, and he has struck out 21 in 21 2/3 innings. But he has walked 11 and thrown five wild pitches, convincing the Angels that the lively fastball and wicked slider are as nasty as ever but that his ability to throw those pitches for strikes needs work.

Pitching coach Bud Black has worked to refine Rodriguez's delivery so he can release the ball at the proper point each time. Still, Rodriguez ranks pretty low on the Angel list of concerns.

"You've got to let him grow and develop," Black said. "In the career of all players, there's a developmental stage. He's pitched less than 30 innings in the regular season. It's way too early to be critical of a rookie."

*

While Alfredo Amezaga drew accolades for his 22-game hitting streak, the Angels are most pleased that their triple-A shortstop is finally getting the hang of switch-hitting. The Angels converted Amezaga, 25, to a switch-hitter three years ago, the better to take advantage of his speed, but they understood that learning to hit from the left side would not be easy. His defense already is ready for the majors.

After hitting .251 with a .317 on-base percentage at Salt Lake last season, he is hitting .349 with a .409 on-base percentage this season -- including a .366 average from the left side, up from .243 last season.

There is no vacancy in Anaheim now, but shortstop David Eckstein and second baseman Adam Kennedy are both eligible for arbitration in each of the next two years, so Amezaga could provide a cost-effective alternative to either.

While the Angels envision him as an everyday shortstop, they are grooming Salt Lake second baseman Chone Figgins as a utility infielder. Accordingly, Figgins plays shortstop once or twice a week. He is hitting .307 but leads the team with eight errors.

ON DECK

Opponent -- Baltimore Orioles, three games.

Site -- Edison Field.

Radio -- KSPN (710), XKAM (950).

TV -- Fox Sports Net tonight and Wednesday, Channel 9 Thursday.

Records -- Angels 21-21, Orioles 19-24.

2002 record vs. Orioles -- 7-2.

Tonight, 7 -- Kevin Appier (2-2, 5.52) vs. Rick Helling (2-4, 5.51).

Wednesday, 7 p.m. -- Aaron Sele (1-1, 9.72) vs. Sidney Ponson (4-3, 3.88).

Thursday, 7 p.m. -- Ramon Ortiz (4-4, 5.88) vs. Jason Johnson (4-2, 3.00).

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