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Angels reliever Ryan Madson suffers setback

Club's projected closer, who had ligament-replacement surgery in right elbow in April, felt soreness in the elbow after a bullpen session in February and probably won't be ready for start of the regular season.

February 11, 2013|By Mike DiGiovanna, Los Angeles Times
  • New Angels closer Ryan Madson, shown throwing last month, experienced soreness in his surgically repaired elbow after a Feb. 1 bullpen session.
New Angels closer Ryan Madson, shown throwing last month, experienced… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Ryan Madson felt soreness in his surgically repaired right elbow after a Feb. 1 bullpen session and hasn't thrown since, a setback that will probably prevent the reliever from being ready by the April 1 regular-season opener.

Madson, the former Philadelphia Phillies closer, sat out the 2012 season because of Tommy John surgery. He said he considered the snag a normal part of the recovery process but acknowledged being "disappointed."

He had thrown only four times off a mound before being shut down and will not throw Tuesday when pitchers and catchers hold their first spring-training workout.

"I'm a little discouraged, because I didn't want there to be any hang-ups," said Madson, whose one-year, $3.5-million deal includes incentives that could push his salary to $7 million. "I don't know if I pushed too hard too early, but I had been feeling pretty good until this."

Even before the setback, the team mapped out a conservative course that had Madson, who had surgery in April, pitching in exhibition games by mid-March and in regular-season games by mid-April.

"He's obviously important to us, and we're going to err on the side of caution," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We definitely expect him to be ready at some point in April, but these things go at their own speed."

If Madson regains his 2011 form, when he was 4-2 with a 2.37 earned-run average and 32 saves in 34 chances, he will fortify a bullpen that includes hard-throwing right-handers Ernesto Frieri and Kevin Jepsen and veteran left-handers Scott Downs and Sean Burnett.

If not, the Angels could suffer from the same bullpen depth issues that plagued them in 2011 and 2012, when they led the American League with 47 blown saves.

Team player

A healthy and productive Madson would push Frieri , the 2012 closer, to a setup role, but the 27-year-old right-hander who was 4-2 with a 2.32 ERA and 23 saves last season wouldn't consider that a demotion.

"When they signed Madson, honestly, I was excited," Frieri said. "If I have a great year with 40 saves and we don't make the playoffs, that's nothing. If I'm not the closer and have 30 holds and we make the World Series, that means a lot to me. It's not about my personal records or being the closer. It's about winning."

Frieri, relying almost exclusively on a lively 95-mph fastball, was dominant for much of 2012. He didn't give up an earned run until July 15, his 27th appearance with the Angels.

But after a few costly September meltdowns, which he attributed to his lack of an effective second pitch, Frieri spent the off-season "working on a new pitch," one he wouldn't reveal Monday but that Scioscia identified as a changeup.

"I threw my fastball 99% of the time last year, but they get used to your mechanics and velocity," Frieri said. "I'm not Mariano Rivera. I can't use one pitch for 20 years. To stay in the big leagues, I need to keep working and make adjustments."

Short hops

Scioscia revealed Monday that Howie Kendrick underwent minor surgery in October to remove bone chips from his throwing elbow. The second baseman has been throwing and "is 100% now," Scioscia said. … Reliever Michael Kohn, who sat out 2012 because of Tommy John surgery, has thrown 25 bullpen sessions since December and said he's "100% game-ready." The right-hander was 2-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 24 games in 2010 but spent most of 2011 at triple-A Salt Lake.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

twitter.com/MikeDiGiovanna

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