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Angels' Kevin Jepsen, Jason Bulger ready for postseason

Both rookie relievers recovered from rocky starts to the season. 'I can't wait,' Jepsen says of the playoffs.

September 16, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna

BOSTON — The questions surrounding the Angels' bullpen as the postseason draws near aren't confined to the closer spot.

As good as relievers Kevin Jepsen and Jason Bulger have been this season, it remains to be seen how the rookie right-handers will respond to the October stage, of pitching in extremely hostile environments such as Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium.

"Everybody has to have their first playoff experience -- you've got to start somewhere," said Jepsen, the setup man who has emerged as the team's top reliever in the second half. "I can't wait. I feel like I will feed off the energy, whether we're home or away."

Jepsen struggled because of lower-back spasms in April and had a 19.29 earned-run average in five games when he was put on the disabled list and then optioned to triple A in early May.

He was recalled in early June and entered Tuesday with a 1.36 ERA in 28 games since July 1, stranding 24 of 31 inherited runners. He has been so dominant that Manager Mike Scioscia has been using him in the ninth inning.

Bulger also rebounded from a rocky start -- he had an 11.74 ERA in eight April games but has a 2.16 ERA in 48 games since -- and has limited opponents to a .212 batting average.

The turning point in his season came May 14, when Bulger escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the 12th inning by striking out Dustin Pedroia and getting David Ortiz to ground out in a 5-4 win over Boston in Anaheim.

"That shows to yourself that you can pitch out of those situations," Bulger said. "I've never been in the postseason, but the situations Scioscia has put Kevin and I in have prepared us."

Jepsen got a taste of October baseball last year when he was included on the Angels' playoff roster. He did not pitch in the division series against Boston but warmed up twice.

"I could feel my heart pumping, the adrenaline going," he said. ". . . Coming in with a playoff game on the line -- it doesn't get any better than that."

Ivy leaguers

Among the highlights of the Angels' 2010 schedule, which was released on Tuesday, is their first trip to Wrigley Field since interleague play began, to play the Chicago Cubs June 18-20.

The Angels will open the season April 5 at home against Minnesota. The interleague schedule will also feature the annual home-and-home series against the Dodgers and a trip to St. Louis to play the Cardinals May 21-23.

The Angels, who will host the All-Star game July 13, will face the Milwaukee Brewers (June 15-17) and Colorado Rockies (June 25-27) at home.

Shoeless Torii

Torii Hunter has played 12 years in the big leagues, but Monday night marked the first time he lost a shoe on a play. And he was glad he did.

As Hunter went back for Mark Teixeira's two-run triple in the fifth inning of a 5-3 loss in Yankee Stadium, his left spike got caught in the wall, ripping the shoe right off his foot.

"If my shoe hadn't come off, I would have hurt my foot again," said Hunter, who missed the final two months in 2005 because of a fractured left ankle.

Papi grande

Ortiz's home run off Jose Arredondo in the eighth inning Tuesday gave him 270 career homers as a designated hitter, moving him ahead of Frank Thomas and into first place on baseball's all-time list for DHs.


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