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Angels have quite a setup

Scot Shields, Kevin Jepsen and Fernando Rodney all could be called upon to pitch in the eighth inning, depending on the situation.

March 28, 2010|By Mike DiGiovanna

Reporting from Tempe, Ariz. — Scot Shields was the Angels' primary setup man from 2005 to 2008, Kevin Jepsen emerged as the team's primary eighth-inning reliever last season and Fernando Rodney spent the last four years as Detroit's setup man or closer.

So, who will pitch the eighth inning for the Angels this season?

The answer could be D: all of the above.

"Roles will float from game to game," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We have a deep bullpen with a lot of good arms that are going to be available every night. It should be a terrific scenario."

The hard-throwing Rodney, who signed a two-year, $11-million deal with the Angels over the winter, will probably get first crack at setting up closer Brian Fuentes, which is fine with Shields, who sat out most of 2009 after undergoing left-knee surgery in June.

"Of course, I'd like to pitch the eighth, but I also understand the arms we have and where I'm coming from after last year," Shields said. "We have a lot of good arms capable of a lot of different roles. Whatever they want me to do, I will do."

All three right-handers are capable of getting out of a jam with a strikeout, but Shields, with his two-seam, sinking fastball, could get the call when a double-play grounder is needed.

Matchups will also dictate decisions. The hard-throwing Jepsen was dominant against right-handers last season, holding them to a .208 average, but left-handers hit .373 against him.

If several power-hitting left-handers are due up, Scioscia will probably lean more toward Shields, who has held left-handers to a .218 average in his career, or Rodney, who has held them to a .257 average.

In games all three are available, Scioscia could use two of the three in the sixth and seventh innings. And the Angels have two more quality relievers in front of the trio in right-handers Jason Bulger and Brian Stokes.

"It's a good dilemma to have," Shields said of Scioscia's multiple relief options. "You could take your pick on whom to put in what roles, and it would work."

Elbow room

Ervin Santana proved he was sound Sunday, throwing 84 pitches and showing good velocity on his fastball in 4 2/3 innings of a 15-5 exhibition loss to the Cleveland Indians.

Santana did not make his last scheduled start because of an inflamed bursa sac, an injury the right-hander said he suffered when he banged his throwing elbow too hard on the arm of a couch as he sat down.

Though Santana was charged with five runs, three scored when his replacement, Jon Bachanov, threw a wild pitch and gave up a two-run double in the fifth inning. Another run charged to Santana scored when center fielder Torii Hunter lost Andy Marte's pop fly in the sun.

"Ervin actually threw the ball very well," Scioscia said. "We're very excited to see the ball come out of his hand like that. That matches the stuff he had earlier this spring, so obviously it was a minimal setback he had when he bumped his elbow."

Short hops

Utility infielder Maicer Izturis, who left Saturday's game after three innings because of tightness in his back, took batting practice and ground balls Sunday and is expected to play Monday night against the Chicago White Sox. . . . Fuentes hasn't pitched in a game since Thursday, but the left-hander is sound. He threw a bullpen session Sunday and is scheduled to pitch Monday against the Kansas City Royals.

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