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Kevin Jepsen's role with Angels seems all setup

Reliever probably won't take over as closer going into the playoffs despite dominant performance in last 30 games.

September 20, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna

ARLINGTON, TEXAS — As dominant as Kevin Jepsen has been -- the setup man has a 1.72 earned-run average in 30 games since July 1 and has begun pitching into the ninth inning -- there is one statistic that would make the Angels hesitant to make him their closer entering the playoffs.

Although the rookie right-hander has limited right-handed hitters to a .211 average (20 for 95) and no home runs, left-handers have a surprisingly robust .354 average (35 for 99) with two home runs against Jepsen.

Granted, many of those hits were accrued in April, when Jepsen was suffering from lower-back spasms and had a 19.29 ERA before going on the disabled list, and June, after he was recalled from triple A and was ironing out his mechanics and refining a new pitch, a cut fastball, to go with his 96-mph fastball and curve.

Opponents hit .478 (11 for 23) against Jepsen in April and .400 (12 for 30) against him in June. Since then, opponents have hit .224 (11 for 49) against Jepsen in July, .268 (15 for 56) in August and .167 (six for 36) in September.

"It's been a tale of two seasons for Kevin," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "His stats from April and [June], you have to crumple them up and throw them out. From July 1 on, that's the Kevin Jepsen we anticipated."

Some fans think the Angels would be better off with Jepsen closing and the left-handed Brian Fuentes, who has struggled in his closing role in recent weeks, setting up.

But by using Jepsen in the eighth inning and keeping him in the game to face a right-handed batter in the ninth, Scioscia can save Fuentes for a left-handed batter. Fuentes has limited left-handers to a .239 average.

But Scioscia will not hesitate to keep Jepsen in the eighth inning, regardless of how many left-handers are coming up.

"Anyone who throws 96 mph with a power hook and a good slider," Scioscia said, "will match up against anyone."


Nocturnal Angels

This seven-day, seven-game swing through New York, Boston and Texas has been the most grueling trip of the year for the Angels.

The Angels flew from Anaheim to New York after last Sunday's game and arrived at their hotel about 1:30 a.m. EDT. After a night game in Yankee Stadium on Monday, the Angels flew to Boston, arriving at their hotel about 1:30 a.m. EDT.

After Thursdays game in Fenway Park, the Angels arrived at their Texas hotel about 3:30 a.m. CDT.

"It's mentally and physically tough, especially this late in the season," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "Once you get on the field, adrenaline takes over. In the clubhouse, my adrenaline is coffee."


Double feature

It will be an interesting doubleheader today for John Lackey, who will pitch the series finale against Texas and then join seven teammates in the luxury suite he purchased in Dallas' new $1.15-billion football stadium for tonight's Cowboys-New York Giants game.

Since they won't fly with the team this afternoon, Lackey and the players have chartered a jet to fly to Southern California after the football game.

"It will be a fun day, for sure," Lackey said. "I'm excited. I haven't even been in the stadium or seen the suite yet."





Where: The Ballpark in Arlington.

When: 10 a.m. PDT.

On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 830, 1330.

Pitchers: John Lackey vs. Derek Holland. Update: Lackey is 0-2 with a 6.35 earned-run average in two starts against Texas this season, and is 10-12 with a 5.82 ERA in 30 starts against the Rangers. But he has been throwing the ball as well over the last two months as he has at any point in his career. Holland is 2-0 with a 3.29 ERA in three games against the Angels this season, including a three-hit shutout Aug. 9 in Anaheim.

-- Mike DiGiovanna

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