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Angels closer Ernesto Frieri hunkers down through tough stretch

The pitcher has recently blown two saves and suffered another loss. He's working with coaches and hopes for another chance.

August 02, 2013|By Ben Bolch

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Ernesto Frieri will always be grateful for the opportunity the Angels gave him to become a closer.

He just hopes his chances aren't running out.

The reliever entered Friday in the midst of what he called "the toughest sequence ever in my career," a four-game stretch in which he had blown two saves and suffered another loss while giving up five runs in less than an inning.

His ineffectiveness prompted Angels Manager Mike Scioscia to say he would "match up" in the ninth inning of a save situation with the reliever he felt gave his team the best chance to secure a victory.

Before this week, that would have been Frieri. His blown saves in back-to-back appearances in Texas were a first since the Angels acquired him in May 2012 and inserted him into the back end of their bullpen.

"It's tough, man," Frieri said before the Angels played the Toronto Blue Jays at Angel Stadium. "Not just because how I'm doing but because of the way we are doing [as a team]. We needed those wins. Those games that I gave up, we needed, not just for me but for the team. That's why I'm a little more frustrated."

The cause of Frieri's struggles is no mystery.

"I've been missing with one, two pitches and they don't miss it," said Frieri, who is 0-3 with a career-worst 4.30 earned-run average and 25 saves in 29 opportunities. "They're big-league hitters, and if you leave the ball down the middle, you're going to get hurt."

Frieri said he had been working with pitching coach Mike Butcher and bullpen coach Steve Soliz to refine the location of his pitches. One possible upside to his troubles, Frieri said, is that they could enhance his mental toughness.

That is, if he's handed the ball in the ninth inning again with the Angels leading.

"I hope they give me another opportunity to recover the confidence that I had," Frieri said, "and to show that I still can do it."

Fallout looming

Scioscia said he did not expect any Angels to be among the dozen or so players reportedly on the verge of being suspended for violations of baseball's drug policy in connection with a defunct anti-aging clinic in South Florida.

Does Scioscia expect the game to change in the wake of what are expected to be significant penalties for high-profile players?

"I would hope that eventually players understand that the hard work and the sweat is what builds a ballplayer," Scioscia said, "and if you're unhappy with being the best ballplayer you can with hard work and sweat, then you're not going to get an opportunity to play the game if you're using performance-enhancing drugs."

Short hop

Mike Trout started his first game of the season at designated hitter, a move that Scioscia said would help the outfielder recharge.

Twitter: @latbbolch

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