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Angels' Mike Scioscia is happier with his bullpen

Scott Downs is the closer for now, but Ernesto Frieri might get a chance if he can improve control.

May 19, 2012|By Bill Shaikin
  • Scott Downs has emerged as the Angels' "primary guy" in the ninth inning, Coach Mike Scioscia said.
Scott Downs has emerged as the Angels' "primary guy" in… (Tony Dejak / Associated…)

SAN DIEGO — — Ernesto Frieri's eyes lighted up. Would he like to be a closer?

"For sure," Frieri said. "That's every reliever's dream."

The Angels might give Frieri that chance. If the Angels had not scored insurance runs in the top of the ninth inning Friday, Frieri would have been in line for his first major league save in the bottom of the inning.

That was more about wanting left-hander Scott Downs to face the left-handers the San Diego Padres had lined up in the eighth inning, Manager Mike Scioscia said. Frieri and Jordan Walden have emerged as the primary setup men for Downs.

"If we get to the ninth inning, there is no doubt Scott is our primary guy," Scioscia said Saturday.

Scioscia would prefer an established closer, a role in which Walden established himself last season but faltered early this season.

"You do what you have to do," Scioscia said. "You have to work with the pieces you have.

"There is no doubt the optimum is to have one guy there and have guys in front of him as setup guys. I don't know if we're quite there yet. But there is no doubt the bullpen we have now is light years ahead of the bullpen we started the season with."

Frieri accounts for much of that improvement. In six appearances since the Angels acquired him from San Diego, Frieri has faced 21 batters and struck out 12, without giving up a hit or run.

"I'm so happy with the trade," Frieri said. "This is a great organization.

"The opportunity they give me over here, I never got with the Padres."

That was not a slam. The Padres had Heath Bell, Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson to man the late innings last year. They started this year with Gregerson, Andrew Cashner and Huston Street.

"It's tough to pitch ahead of those guys," Frieri said.

Frieri cannot establish himself as a closer without improving his control. He has walked four in his first 52/3 innings as an Angel, with a career ratio of one walk every two innings.

"That's something we talked about at length," Padres Manager Bud Black said. "That's something I even talked to him about after the trade. His stuff and his deception work late in the game."

Angels in the outfield

For the first time, the Angels deployed what could be their outfield of the future. Mike Trout started in left, with Peter Bourjos in center and Mark Trumbo in right.

Trout and Bourjos occupied the top two spots in the batting order, probably the speediest 1-2 punch in the league. But Scioscia said Bourjos would need to improve offensively for that lineup to become a regular one.

"On-base percentage — that's our first priority," Scioscia said.

Bourjos started play Saturday with an on-base percentage of .284. That still is better than the .277 OBP of Vernon Wells, but Wells had six home runs to one for Bourjos. Also, Bourjos had 18 strikeouts in 59 at-bats; Wells had 17 strikeouts in 135 at-bats.

Scioscia said he hoped Torii Hunter, at home in Texas with a son accused of sexual assault, would return to the team sometime this week.

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