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Walden loses job as Angels closer; Downs to pitch ninth inning

Manager Mike Scioscia says the young reliever needs to work on some pitches before returning to ninth-inning duties.

April 27, 2012|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Angels reliever Jordan Walden heads off the field after giving up a game-ending two-run home run to Rays pinch-hitter Brandon Allen on Thursday.
Angels reliever Jordan Walden heads off the field after giving up a game-ending… (Chris O'Meara / Associated…)

CLEVELAND — An All-Star as a rookie in 2011, Angels reliever Jordan Walden has lost his job as closer one blown save into 2012.

Manager Mike Scioscia announced before Friday night’s game against the Cleveland Indians that veteran left-hander Scott Downs will close with Walden moving to a seventh- or eighth-inning role “for right now.”

Walden entered Thursday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays with one out in the ninth inning, the bases empty and the Angels holding a one-run lead.

B.J. Uptonsingled before Brandon Allen crushed a pinch-hit, two-run home run to give the Rays a 4-3 walk-off victory, extending the Angels’ losing streak to four games and dropping their record to an extremely disappointing 6-13.

“Right now, we want to get Jordan some innings where he can work on some things,” Scioscia said. “It should be a quick fix. When Jordan gets his stuff right, it will play in the closer spot, and that’s what we’re working toward.”

Walden went 5-5 with a 2.98 earned-run average and 32 saves last season, but he also led the American League with 10 blown saves.

The 24-year-old right-hander has a 98-mph fastball but has struggled to gain consistent command of his slider and changeup, making it difficult to utilize those secondary pitches in a game. He also has been dealing with too many hitter’s counts.

“His stuff is coming out hot, but he needs to control counts and put guys away,” Scioscia said. “At times, Jordan has had problems with that.”

A lack of consistent work probably hasn’t helped. Walden has appeared in only six games this season, and he didn’t get his first save opportunity until April 20. Thursday’s game was only his second save opportunity.

Scioscia said Walden’s demotion didn’t have as much to do with the reliever not having the mentality to close as it does with him executing pitches and developing a better breaking ball.

“It’s tough to experiment in the ninth inning of a game,” Scioscia said. “We want to put him in situations where he can still help our bullpen but be able to throw some pitches where the game is not one or lost.”


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