Angels confident in solidified, deep bullpen

Smith, Street anchor eighth, ninth innings; depth will set up bridge

Angels confident in solidified, deep bullpen

With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Tempe, Ariz., by Feb. 19, it's time to dissect the Angels' 2015 roster. This is the last of a six-part Around the Horn series taking a position-by-position look at projected starters and backup options heading into the season. Topping it off: The bullpen. (previously: starting rotation, outfield, corner infield, middle infield, catcher)

ANAHEIM -- No department of a baseball roster is more fickle and unpredictable than a bullpen, but it's safe to say the Angels feel better about their relief corps now than they have heading into any of the previous three seasons under the current front office.

The reason: The ninth.

Getting a lockdown closer in Huston Street last July -- as part of a six-player trade that saw the Angels send four intriguing prospects to San Diego -- created the desired trickle-down effect that finally turned the Angels' bullpen into a strength down the stretch last season.

Outlook: Smith, RP, LAA

With Street handling the ninth, Joe Smith entrenched as the setup man, Kevin Jepsen pitching the seventh and the likes of Jason Grilli, Fernando Salas, Mike Morin and Cory Rasmus filling out the middle innings, the Angels' bullpen was fourth in the Majors in save percentage and tied for fifth in opponents' OPS over the last two months.

They were only 15th in ERA (3.51) and 11th in WHIP (1.22), but remember that over the final six weeks, after Garrett Richards' knee buckled, the Angels had to basically use their entire bullpen every five days. Over that stretch, relievers accounted for 210 1/3 innings, 15 more than anybody else.

This year, the Angels should have the starting-pitching depth to eliminate the need for a bullpen game no matter how many injuries occur.

With Street (a career-low 1.37 ERA and a career-high 41 saves last year) and Smith (career-low 1.81 ERA and 0.80 WHIP), the last two innings are solidified.

The rest is still a little hazy, though.

Gone is Jepsen, sent to the Rays for Matt Joyce after a season that saw the 30-year-old right-hander post a career-low 2.63 ERA and strike out a career-high 10.4 batters per nine innings. Also gone is Grilli, who signed with the Braves after posting a 3.48 ERA in 40 games with the Angels.

Morin escapes trouple

The Angels are hoping Morin can step into that vacated seventh-inning role, after a season in which the 23-year-old posted a 2.90 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP in 60 appearances. They're hoping for another good year out of Salas, who re-established himself with a 3.38 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings. And they're hoping to benefit from the versatility of 30-year-old left-hander Cesar Ramos, who has posted a 3.90 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP while pitching in a variety of roles with the Rays the last two years.

That's five out of seven bullpen spots solidified heading into camp.

If Hector Santiago doesn't win a job as the fifth starter, he can become a weapon in the back end of the bullpen -- perhaps as that situational lefty the Angels have lacked the last couple years. If Rasmus doesn't stay stretched out as a starter, he, too, may have a versatile role in the 'pen.

And in case they need others, the 40-man roster also has a couple of right-handed specialists, Vinnie Pestano and Jeremy McBryde, and a couple of intriguing prospects with big fastballs, Cam Bedrosian and Danny Reynolds.

Beyond the active roster: Besides Bedrosian, who made 17 Major League appearances as a 22-year-old last year, Trevor Gott may be the Angels' best relief-pitching prospect. Acquired along with Street, Gott posted a 3.00 ERA while striking out 9.0 batters per nine innings in the Angels and Padres systems last year. He could be the Triple-A closer in 2015. … The Angels signed lefty relievers Edgar Ibarra, Atahualpa Severino and Scott Snodgress to Minor League deals this offseason. Those three, along with Gott, are non-roster invites for Spring Training.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.