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Fernando Rodney pitches strong inning, an encouraging sign for Angels Manager Mike Scioscia

Scioscia had demoted the struggling closer after a blown save against Kansas City. Also: news on Joel Pineiro and Scott Kazmir.

April 09, 2011|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Fernando Rodney looked comfortable for the Angels on Friday night in his first outing since losing the closer's job to teammate Jordan Walden.
Fernando Rodney looked comfortable for the Angels on Friday night in his… (Jake Roth / US Presswire )

One bright spot in Friday night's 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays was a fairly clean inning by demoted Angels closer Fernando Rodney, who gave up one hit in a scoreless ninth. Of the right-hander's 14 pitches, eight were strikes.

In his previous outing, in Kansas City last Sunday, Rodney blew a save by walking three batters and allowing two runs in the Angels' 12-9, 13-inning loss to the Royals. Scioscia announced on Tuesday that Jordan Walden would be the new closer.

"For the first time in a while, he looked real comfortable on the mound," Manager Mike Scioscia said of Rodney. "The arm is there; there's no disputing that. He made some terrific pitches, and his delivery was compact."

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Rodney struggled after replacing Brian Fuentes as closer in September, going 0-2 with a 5.65 earned-run average and four blown saves in the final month of the season, and he completely lost his release point in Kansas City.

The veteran was demoted "not because he was giving up runs; it was the way he was giving up runs," Scioscia said. "He's an important part of the bullpen, and we need that power arm back there, whether he's pitching the seventh, eighth or ninth inning.

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"He needs to find a consistent release point, and that's impossible to do as a closer. This is the right time to get Fernando out of the ninth inning and get him right."

Rehab report

Joel Pineiro, on the disabled list because of right shoulder tightness, completed a 35-pitch bullpen session Saturday in which he threw with "maximum" effort.

The right-hander is scheduled to throw one more bullpen session, probably Monday or Tuesday, and he hopes to begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment by next weekend.

"This was a step in the right direction," Pineiro said. "I feel good. Right now, it's a matter of building up arm strength."

Scioscia said Pineiro would need a minimum of two minor league starts, so the earliest he could join the Angels rotation is the last week of April.

Shortstop Erick Aybar, who sat out the previous four games because of a left side strain, ran wind sprints and took ground balls to each side Saturday afternoon, and he hopes to resume batting practice Monday or Tuesday.

Youth patrol

An Angels club with a 23-year-old closer in Walden, a 24-year-old center fielder in Peter Bourjos and a 25-year-old first baseman in Mark Trumbo could inject more youth this week.

Top pitching prospect Tyler Chatwood, 21, was pulled from Saturday night's start for triple-A Salt Lake after one scoreless inning, in which he gave up one hit and struck out two.

That would put the right-hander in line to start Tuesday night for the Angels, who will need to add a fifth starter for the game against the Cleveland Indians.

The other candidates for Tuesday night are Trevor Bell, who replaced Chatwood in Salt Lake on Saturday night, and reliever Hisanori Takahashi, who was a starter during his 10-year career in Japan and started 12 games for the New York Mets last season.

Heading down

By putting Scott Kazmir on the disabled list because of lower-back tightness Friday night, the Angels will be able to send the struggling left-hander to the minor leagues for a lengthy rehabilitation assignment.

"At times he's tried to tinker a little bit with some stuff and with his mechanics," Scioscia said. "Right now, there's reason to tinker. He has to get in some tune with some things that have gotten away from him."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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