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He's got a really bad feeling about these Angels

Who is worth the price of admission these days dressed in an Angels' uniform? The columnist has trouble answering that question.

May 12, 2010|T.J. Simers

Before yet another uninspiring and inept performance by the Angels, Manager Mike Scioscia was saying Wednesday, "we've talked ad nauseam'' about closer Brian Fuentes.

"You get sick every time you talk about him?" I asked, and while understandable, it was quite the admission from Scioscia.


FOR THE RECORD:
Angels baseball: A caption with a photo accompanying a T.J. Simers column May 13 in Sports described Angels pitcher Jered Weaver reacting after Carl Crawford of Tampa Bay scored on a wild pitch. In fact, Crawford came home on a passed ball. —

IN SO many ways, Wednesday was a great day for the Angels, no need to call on Fuentes, someone else to blame for the team's latest pratfall.

I'd start with the guy who put these losers together.

Anaheim isn't exactly the entertainment capital, but the Angels want to be recognized as something Los Angeles, yet lack the star power required.

Who is worth the price of admission these days dressed in an Angels' uniform?

They have only one hitter batting above .300 with more than 10 at bats, Jeff Mathis, who is on the disabled list.

They really need the monkey because they have no one to electrify the place like K-Rod or Vlad, the Angels built on pitching but packing the second worst earned-run average in the American League.

Put it all together, and this doesn't have the look of a Scioscia-prepared team, the starting catcher forgetting the number of outs, and it was the first inning.

"I'm betting we're going to play better," says Scioscia, which means fixing the problem with the team's lead-off hitter, who can't get on base; the third baseman who can't hit; the DH who has fallen flat; the disaster that is Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders and Scott Kazmir; and the catcher, Mike Napoli, who wanted to play more and now that he is, he's no good.

They get all that straightened out, maybe get a lead in a game, and then they have to give the ball to the closer who has a 7.04 ERA.

"What's up with that?" I wanted to know, Fuentes getting $9 million to save games for the Angels, but as steady as Don Knotts out there on the mound.

"The manager is in his office," says Fuentes, and they say location isn't one of his strengths. "Go ask him."

I asked Fuentes if he has the stuff to be the Angels' closer, and he says, "the conversation is over."

Not before I thanked him, what with Gary Matthews gone, I needed a new one, and told him he'd fill the role quite nicely.

Fuentes then told me his life story. In fact there was no shutting him up, as nice and sincere a guy as any horrible closer might be.

"I blew four saves in one week," he says in harkening back to his days in Colorado, the Angels lucky because he's blown only nine saves in two years here.

"I gave up on myself," he says. "It was to the point where in my heart of hearts I didn't think I could do this job."

A back injury sent him to the disabled list, but while losing his job as the Rockies' closer, a year later he would regain it.

We know he has bounce-back ability, which is good to know for someone who can't seem to get anyone out.

"I had 3 1/2 weeks to think on the disabled list and realized I'm the same guy who got it done earlier. I made a vow I would never get so low again, and while I've had low points since, I never gave up on myself."

Good for him, but he's in jeopardy of losing his job as closer whether he believes in himself or not.

"Realistically, I probably am," he says.

It's not as if he lacks for motivation. He needs to finish 55 games, which would force the Angels to give him another $9 million next year, or else he becomes a free agent looking for work.

Fuentes has 167 saves in his career, 33 blown saves; Frankie Rodriguez had 208 saves for the Angels, and 33 blown saves. FYI: Dodgers' closer Jonathan Broxton has 58 career saves, and 27 blown saves, so why am I going after Fuentes?

"I know I have crummy numbers and it's on me,"' says Fuentes, already more of a stand-up guy than Matthews ever was.

"But let's put it this way, I'm surprised when I pitch poorly. I believe I can do this and do it well, and even when they tell me I can't, I will still believe I have the stuff."

The good thing about the Angels, they're terrible, so there aren't many games to be saved these days. But at some point Fuentes will get another chance — and while that's a game that might be best watched with eyes closed, the same could be said for most Angels' games this season.

THE PHILLIES' bullpen coach was caught on camera using binoculars, the team denying he was using them to steal signs.

I believe the Phillies. Anyone who has been around baseball knows they use binoculars to scope out the babes in the stands.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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