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ANGELS FYI

Meeting called to help the bullpen

Pitching coach Mike Butcher and bullpen coach Orlando Mercado hold a lengthy closed-door meeting with the team's relievers and catchers in an effort to improve baseball's worst bullpen.

June 01, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna

Pitching coach Mike Butcher and bullpen coach Orlando Mercado held a lengthy closed-door meeting with the team's relievers and catchers Sunday morning in an effort to improve what has surprisingly been baseball's worst bullpen.

They must have hit on something.

Rafael Rodriguez, Jason Bulger and Justin Speier combined for 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief Sunday, giving the Angels a chance to come back for a 9-8 win over the Seattle Mariners.

But one game does not wipe out two months of struggles for a relief corps that has a major league-worst 5.86 earned-run average and is 6-12 with nine blown saves.

They've allowed opponents to hit .295, the highest mark in the American League, and their 74 walks are third-most in the AL.

"There are individual issues with every pitcher, it's not one blanket thing, but there are some resounding themes that could be leading to their struggles," Manager Mike Scioscia said.

"We're behind too many hitters. Our bullpen walks are on the high side. Some guys are struggling with first-batter efficiency. Until guys start throwing better, it's tough to define their roles."

Closer Brian Fuentes was on a 10-game roll in which he gave up one earned run before giving up Jose Lopez's three-run homer in the ninth inning Saturday night.

Scot Shields had a 6.62 ERA before going on the disabled list Tuesday because of tendinitis in his left knee. Jose Arredondo, 10-2 with a 1.62 ERA in 2008, hasn't come close to repeating his strong rookie season -- he is 1-2 with a 5.32 ERA in 23 games.

Speier has a 5.31 ERA in 17 games. Bulger has been better of late but still has a 4.87 ERA in 18 games. The only reliever who has been consistently effective is veteran left-hander Darren Oliver, who has a 1.99 ERA in 14 games.

"Some guys are out of whack and can't repeat a pitch, some are trying to be too fine, some have issues with pitch selection," Scioscia said.

"There are little things with each pitcher that, when you add it up and put the arms together, you can see why we've been searching to find the formula there."

Help could be on the way. Veteran right-hander Rudy Seanez, signed to a minor league contract on May 18, made his triple-A Salt Lake debut Saturday, giving up one run in two innings, and will probably join the Angels soon.

The Angels are also believed to be exploring outside options. Among the relievers who could be available in trades: Colorado's Huston Street, Arizona's Tony Pena and Chad Qualls, Houston's LaTroy Hawkins and Tim Byrdak, and Cleveland's Matt Herges and Rafael Betancourt.

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Short hops

Vladimir Guerrero worked the swing shift over the weekend. Of the 34 pitches the Angels slugger saw in two games against the Mariners, he swung at 27 of them. He went four for nine with two runs batted in and three strikeouts. . . . Catcher Mike Napoli was mired in a one-for-25 slump when he hit a solo home run, his seventh of the season, in the fifth inning Sunday. . . . Seattle and Chicago combined to hit .338 against the Angels and had 10 hits or more in four of the six games on the homestand. . . . The Angels' May 3 rainout in Yankee Stadium has been rescheduled for Monday, Sept. 14 at 4 p.m. (PDT). The Angels begin a three-game series in Boston the following night.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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