CHICAGO -- Closers are empathetic. They know the pressures they face and feel for peers going through hard times. This is especially true of the Angels' Brian Fuentes with respect to Trevor Hoffman, a man he has admired for years.
With five blown saves in 10 attempts for the Brewers this season, Hoffman is in the midst of the worst slump of his illustrious career. The all-time saves leader is four away from becoming the first man to 600, but he has been getting knocked around so severely there are questions if he'll be able to retain his hold on the job.
Hoffman, at 42, seems mystified by his struggles. After going 37-for-41 in save opportunities in '09, the former Padres closer is burdened by a 13.15 ERA, a .356 opponents' batting average and seven home runs allowed -- five more than all last season.
"I have so much respect for Trevor," Fuentes said, shaking his head. "Great pitcher, great competitor, great guy. I really hope he comes out of this and gets to 600. He deserves it. He's been a credit to the game."
Fuentes' own struggles -- two blown saves in seven attempts, 6.52 ERA, four homers in 9 2/3 innings -- pale in comparison to those of Hoffman.