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Angels' Kevin Jepsen, Jason Bulger resting up for October

With the team closing in on the division title, Manager Mike Scioscia knows both relievers could use a few days off. He wants them fresh for the playoffs.

September 24, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna

There is no need for alarm, Kevin Jepsen said. Yes, the Angels' best reliever since July 1 was not available Wednesday for the third game in a row, but the right-hander is not injured or experiencing tightness in his shoulder or lower back.

"I'm just feeling tired," said Jepsen, who made 11 appearances in a 19-day span from Sept. 2 through Sunday. "My stuff was fine Sunday in Texas. I could just tell I was a little tired. The ball felt a little heavier."

Enter Manager Mike Scioscia.

"Before I could even say anything," Jepsen said, "Scioscia said he was going to give me a couple of days off, which is nice. I could use it."

Jepsen, in his first full big league season, is 6-3 with a 4.26 earned-run average in 50 2/3 innings over 49 appearances.

After struggling because of lower-back spasms in April, going on the disabled list and then to triple A in May, Jepsen has emerged as a bullpen force, with a 1.67 ERA in 31 games since July 1.

With the Angels closing in on the division title, Scioscia wants Jepsen and right-hander Jason Bulger, who is 6-1 with a 3.19 ERA in 60 games but was shut down because of shoulder fatigue for a week and a half in early September, sound for October.

"If you look at the bullpen and how hard we struggled to get some continuity down there, at points of the season, a lot of these guys had to pitch a lot," Scioscia said.

"Now that we've established some continuity, we want to try to move it forward and keep it together as well as we can. And if that means having some guys down on occasion, we're going to do it."

Scioscia said Bulger was down Tuesday night, so left-hander Darren Oliver faced right-handed slugger Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning with a runner on third base. Rodriguez hit a game-winning sacrifice fly in the New York Yankees' 6-5 victory.

"I didn't even know I was unavailable," Bulger said. "I was preparing like I was going to go in, but I didn't warm up. I guess he wants to give me a little rest. I feel fine."

Bulger threw two scoreless innings Wednesday.

Missing in action

Scott Kazmir's pitching line Wednesday -- six innings, three runs, six hits, four strikeouts, three walks -- was respectable, but it belied a major shortcoming for the Angels left-hander, whose slider has deserted him in his last two starts.

"I had my fastball today, but not much of anything else," Kazmir said. "Especially with two strikes, I was fighting it. I couldn't use my slider against left-handers. It didn't have the depth and late action I wanted. It wasn't tight. It wasn't a good pitch."

Kazmir, who was put on the disabled list with Tampa Bay this season so he could iron out his mechanics, said the problem with his slider is more mental, not physical.

"I just need to trust it more," he said.

Afternoon Nap

Scioscia gave designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero the day off Wednesday, but catcher Mike Napoli, who sat out the previous three games because of severe flu-like symptoms and a fever, was behind the plate, despite a game-time temperature of 95 degrees.

Napoli, who has caught each of Kazmir's five starts with the Angels, had a hit and scored a run in two at-bats before being pulled for a pinch-hitter in the eighth. He made an error.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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