In a season that may be beyond saving, the Angels suddenly find themselves with a new closer.
His name is Fernando Rodney, and he inherited the back-of-the-bullpen role Friday when the Angels traded Brian Fuentes to the Minnesota Twins for a player to be named. Expected to take over as closer next season, Rodney now gets the job a month early.
"I feel great," Rodney said before the Angels played the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday at Angel Stadium. "I think I can do my job in this situation, just be the closer and try to do the best I can for my teammates."
Rodney, whose menacing mound presence and 96-mph fastball make him ideally suited for the closer's role, said he missed pitching in the ninth inning as he had earlier in his career with the Detroit Tigers.
"That's what I've been doing in my career, be the closer," he said.
The right-hander got a chance to resume that post on a fill-in basis when Fuentes was injured in April, converting five consecutive save opportunities. All three of Rodney's blown saves came during games in which he gave up runs in the eighth inning.
"Any time he's had it this year," reliever Kevin Jepsen said of Rodney pitching in the closer's role, "he's been dominant closing games out."
Eighth is enough
With Rodney pitching the ninth inning, Jepsen has moved an inning closer to assuming his goal of becoming a closer.
"It's definitely something I want to do," Jepsen said. "I want to have a chance to at some point compete for that."
For now, Jepsen will pitch in the eighth inning, a role he held last season as a setup man for Fuentes.
"I loved being that much farther in the back of the pen," Jepsen said of the experience. "If they call down and they want me in the eighth inning, I'm looking forward to going out and holding it down."
Manager Mike Scioscia said Francisco Rodriguez, Jordan Walden and Scot Shields were candidates to pitch the seventh inning in games the Angels are leading.
Trevor Bell took a line drive off the area above his ankle with one out in the sixth inning Friday, prompting a precautionary visit from Scioscia and the training staff.
Not that anyone could have coaxed Bell off the mound.
"It could have hit me in the face and I would have stayed in there," said Bell, who had matched a career high at that point for his longest outing.
The rookie stayed in the game, giving up only two runs and six hits in seven innings. Bell credited an effective slider that he was able to throw for strikes and the ability to get more ground balls, which led to a pair of double plays.
"The way he pitched last night was absolutely a step forward and that's what we keep needing to see from Trevor," said Scioscia, adding that Bell would remain in the rotation.
A new addition
The Angels activated Rich Thompson off the disabled list to take Fuentes' roster spot. Thompson, who sat out 18 games because of right shoulder inflammation, witnessed the birth of his first child Monday when his wife, Ashley, gave birth to a boy, Richard William.