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ANGELS FYI

Angels' Jordan Walden might need his changeup, for a change

The closer throws a mean fastball, but he's had difficulties recently that might require him to mix things up.

May 23, 2011|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Angels closer Jordan Walden is looking to incorporate his changeup more often into his pitching repertoire.
Angels closer Jordan Walden is looking to incorporate his changeup more… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

Jordan Walden swears he has a good changeup, one he insists he has enough confidence in "to throw on a full count."

Of course, it's hard to tell because the Angels closer rarely throws the off-speed pitch. When you have a 99-mph fastball that most hitters can't catch up to, why throw something in the 87-mph range?

"I'm not saying it stinks to have a 99-mph fastball, but it makes it harder to throw the changeup when you see hitters are late on the fastball," the 23-year-old right-hander said. "I've got to wait for the right times."

Walden, who replaced Fernando Rodney as the team's closer in the second week of the season, entered Monday night with an 0-1 record and 2.95 earned-run average in 22 games, with eight saves in 11 opportunities.

Of the 386 pitches he'd thrown, according to FanGraphs.com, 303 were fastballs — with an average velocity of 97.3 mph — 70 were sliders and only 13 were changeups.

The fact that Walden has been roughed up a little in May after giving up only one run in 12 1/3 April innings may force him to mix things up a bit.

Before Monday, Walden had blown three of his previous six save opportunities, allowing six earned runs and 11 hits in eight innings.

Walden tried to expand his repertoire a bit in Sunday's 4-1 win over the Atlanta Braves. He struck out Dan Uggla with a nice slider for the first out of the ninth and threw a decent changeup that Freddie Freeman did not swing at.

"He looked at it, but it was in his head," Walden said. "Then I threw him a good fastball and got a grounder to second. My fastball is my go-to pitch, but I feel if I can get my slider and changeup into the mix, it will help. I've got to show them those pitches."

Bottoming out

It was a rough weekend for the bottom four hitters in the Angels order, who combined to go one for 29 Saturday and Sunday against the Braves.

No. 9 hitter Peter Bourjos, hitless in eight at-bats over the weekend, has had a particularly rough time of it lately, with a .050 average (two for 40) and 17 strikeouts in 12 games prior to Monday.

But the Angels have such little offensive depth that Bourjos actually moved up in the order Monday, batting eighth while Reggie Willits hit ninth.

"We have a lot of young kids who are feeling their way, and there are growing pains," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "There's not so many names we can juggle.

"When you've played for a while and you're swinging well, the advance scouts are going to see that and adjust to it. There's a cat-and-mouse game that goes on."

Kendrick out again

Howie Kendrick, who received a cortisone injection in his sore right hamstring Saturday, missed his fourth game Monday night.

Kendrick, who leads the team with a .322 average, did some swimming-pool exercises Monday and has been hitting. He will try to run Tuesday or Wednesday, at which point the Angels will decide whether to place him on the disabled list.

"We're going to see how the next couple of days go," Kendrick said, "but right now I'm staying positive."

Short hops

Vernon Wells, on the DL because of a right groin strain, began playing catch Monday, and Scioscia said he could get into some light baseball activities by the end of the week.… Right-hander Guillermo Moscoso will be called up from triple A to start for the A's on Tuesday night.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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