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ANGELS FYI

Bulger takes big step after recall

September 07, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- There is nothing more to accomplish at the triple-A level for Jason Bulger, who was 4-0 with an 0.63 earned-run average and 16 saves in 37 games for Salt Lake, the fourth year the right-hander has spent the bulk of the season at triple A.

But if Bulger can bring the kind of confidence and stuff he had at Salt Lake to the Angels this month after being recalled to the big leagues Saturday, he could make a quantum leap, from pitcher with minimal big league experience to one on the Angels' playoff roster.

"That's something I'm keeping my eye on," Bulger, 29, said. "It's definitely a motivating factor. I want to prove to the coaching staff I can pitch and get guys out consistently, and maybe I'll get a chance to pitch in the postseason. That would be a dream come true."

Bulger took a huge first step toward that goal Saturday night, retiring the Chicago White Sox in order in the 12th, 13th and 14th innings, striking out five during a sparkling 44-pitch effort.

The Angels probably will go with a 10-man staff in the division series, moving one of their five starters to the bullpen and carrying five relievers.

Francisco Rodriguez, Scot Shields, Jose Arredondo and Darren Oliver are locks. Justin Speier, who is 1-8 with a 5.04 ERA in 56 games and has been anything but reliable, is not.

Though Speier has been with the Angels all season and is in the second year of a four-year, $18-million contract, the Angels probably will fill their last bullpen spot with the pitcher who is throwing the ball the best before October.

Bulger, who struck out 75 and walked only 22 in 43 innings at Salt Lake but had struggled in the big leagues before Saturday, with a 5.84 ERA in 23 career appearances, Shane Loux and Darren O'Day are the other candidates.

"Anybody who is on this team right now, we have confidence that there's a role for them and they can play well," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "They wouldn't be here if we didn't think that."

Bulger's stuff -- he mixes a 93-mph fastball with a hard breaking ball -- hasn't changed much, but after battling shoulder injuries the last two years, he is finally sound.

"This is the healthiest he's been in the couple of years we've seen him," Scioscia said.

Delay of game

Jered Weaver's next start, already pushed back from Friday to Monday because of cuts on the middle and ring fingers of his pitching hand, was bumped back again, to Tuesday night. Jon Garland will start against the New York Yankees on Monday on regular rest.

If Weaver can't pitch Tuesday, the Angels will start Dustin Moseley or recall a pitcher from Salt Lake.

Weaver, who suffered the cuts while pushing himself up off a dugout bench in Detroit on Tuesday, played catch Friday with band-aids over the cuts. He will try to throw a bullpen session today.

Short hops

Shortstop Erick Aybar and second baseman Howie Kendrick, both sidelined by left hamstring strains, took ground balls that were hit right at them Saturday, the first time since being injured they took fielding practice. Both began hitting in the cages Friday and are scheduled to begin running Monday in Anaheim. . . . Chone Figgins' third-inning home run Saturday was his first of the season and first since Aug. 18, 2007, at Boston. . . . Homers by Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli in the sixth marked the third time this season the Angels have hit consecutive home runs.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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Magic number

5 Combination of Angels wins and Texas losses that will clinch the West.

H: home games left

R: road games left

*--* AL WEST W L PCT GB H R ANGELS 85 56 603 -- 10 11 Texas 70 73 490 16 10 9 *--*

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