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Back-of-the-bullpen relievers take a backward step

Setup man Scott Downs is shelled by Giants. Ernesto Frieri, who'll open season as closer, gives up winning run. And Manager Mike Scioscia is a little concerned.

March 24, 2013|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Angels closer Ernesto Frieri works against the A's last season.
Angels closer Ernesto Frieri works against the A's last season. (Thearon W. Henderson / Getty…)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Earlier in the week, the Angels rotation was getting cuffed around. Now, it's the bullpen.

Neither left-hander Scott Downs nor right-hander Ernesto Frieri, back-of-the-bullpen pitchers the Angels will be counting heavily on this season, could complete their innings in Sunday's 5-4 exhibition loss to the San Francisco Giants in Tempe Diablo Stadium.

Downs was tagged for three runs and three hits, walked two, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch during an eighth inning in which he recorded only one out. Had right fielder Kole Calhoun not started a perfect relay play that nailed Andres Torres at the plate, the damage would have been worse for Downs, who has a 7.94 earned-run average in six spring appearances.

Frieri, who is expected to open the season as the closer, walked a batter and gave up a game-winning RBI single to Buster Posey in the ninth, and now has a 7.88 ERA in nine spring appearances.

"You'd rather have some of this happen down here than when the season starts, but Ernie has had a couple of rough games, and Scotty never started to even throw the ball until he got to his 15th or 20th pitch, and by then the damage was done," Manager Mike Scioscia said.

"These guys are healthy. They're still working out the final kinks to get ready for the season, but this is the last week of spring training. It's the time to get outs, and these guys have been having trouble getting them."

Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Mark Trumbo, Alberto Callaspo and Peter Bourjos had two hits apiece, and Hamilton drove in two runs, but the Angels fell to 7-17-4 in exhibition play. Though the games don't count, they would prefer to win some more of them.

"You're trying to win every game you play, but you also understand that we've let some leads get away with some guys who aren't going to be on our depth chart right now," Scioscia said. "You have to keep perspective on that, but the guys we need to open the season with, it's an important week for them."

Relief role

The Angels have decided Nick Maronde's future is in the bullpen, and the left-hander was optioned Sunday to double-A Arkansas, where he will continue to work on the command of his fastball and slider.

Maronde, 23, was a starter in his first two minor league seasons, but he pitched well in a relief role after being called up last September, allowing one run and six hits, striking out seven and walking three in six innings of 12 games.

"He might get multi-inning looks, but he'll be a reliever," Scioscia said. "I think he'll maintain his velocity a little better in the bullpen, and he won't have to face hitters three or four times with just a fastball, slider and changeup. He's a guy who could possibly pitch at the back end of the bullpen. He's got that upside."

Comeback trail

Chad Cordero will continue his inspirational comeback in the minor leagues after the 31-year-old right-hander was reassigned to minor league camp Sunday.

The former Washington Nationals closer, whose career was derailed by injuries and the death of an infant daughter, hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2010. He had a 19.06 ERA in seven spring games but showed enough promise to keep him in the organization. He will probably open the season at Class-A Inland Empire.

"It's remarkable what he's been through the last couple of years on and off the field — for him to show so well in camp, I think he's on his way," Scioscia said. "He's got to improve his stamina and that he can maintain his stuff. Only time will tell how he does with that, but he's certainly on his way."

Short hops

Closer Ryan Madson threw a 30-pitch bullpen session, the third time the right-hander has thrown off a mound since being sidelined for several weeks because of a sore elbow. Madson is recovering from Tommy John surgery and will open the season on the disabled list. . . . The Angels optioned outfielder Scott Cousins and infielder Tommy Field to triple-A Salt Lake. Pitchers Fernando Cabrera and Kevin Johnson, outfielder Matt Young and catcher Luke Carlin were also reassigned to minor league camp. Pitcher Brad Mills was claimed off waivers by the Texas Rangers, leaving the Angels' spring roster at 35 players. . . . Right-handers Garrett Richards and David Carpenter are the heavy favorites to win the last two bullpen spots.

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