Angels closer Ernesto Frieri points skyward after earning a save against… (Jeff Gross / Getty Images )
SEATTLE — Ernesto Frieri had two save opportunities in the first 21 games, and at one point he went a week between appearances. Then this week, the right-hander entered in the ninth inning of tie games at home for three straight days.
The workload of ninth-inning specialists is arbitrary — they can go long stretches without a save opportunity, then be needed in four straight games. But statistics suggest that, if possible, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia might want to avoid using Frieri too often on consecutive days.
In his 3 1/2-year big league career, Frieri has a 3-2 record and 4.60 earned-run average on no days rest, giving up nine homers in 31 1/3 innings.
With one day of rest, he has a 1-2 record and 1.70 ERA and no homers in 53 innings. With two days rest, he is 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA and two homers in 42 innings. With three days rest, he is 1-0 with no earned runs given up in 18 2/3 innings.
Scioscia said he was aware of Frieri's tendency to struggle when pitching on back-to-back days, but he had a hard time explaining it.
"If there was a huge variance in velocity or command, I think it would be obvious from a scouting perspective, but we haven't seen that," Scioscia said. "It could be a thing where he's facing the same team for a second or third day in a row and that plays into it. It could be a number of factors."
To Frieri, the numbers make little sense.
"I live and die with the movement of my fastball, and when I have a couple of days off, I don't feel it," Frieri said. "I feel much better and have more life when I pitch back-to-back days. When I have too many days off I feel too much power in my arm, and I don't like it."
Frieri held statistical form in his three-game block this week. He threw a scoreless ninth with two walks against Detroit last Sunday. Monday against Texas, he gave up a game-winning homer to A.J. Pierzynski. Tuesday, he needed a spectacular, game-saving catch by left fielder Mike Trout to escape the ninth.
"On that third day, even though it might be ugly, he gets it done a lot of times," Scioscia said. "You have to trust that when a guy's role comes up, he's going to get it done."
It has been a week since reliever Ryan Madson, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, threw a 20-pitch simulated game. Though Scioscia wouldn't call the delay a setback, there is no timetable for Madson to throw to batters again, and it's clear his return has been pushed back. … Erick Aybar (bruised left heel) started at designated hitter in an extended spring-training game Friday and will need at least one more game at shortstop in Arizona before being activated. … The Angels hope Tommy Hanson, on the bereavement list because of the death of his stepbrother, will return in time to start Monday at Oakland.