Young closer Walden in a groove

Young closer Walden in a groove

MIAMI -- He is looking so confident and comfortable, it's easy to forget this is only Jordan Walden's second season as a relief pitcher. The Texan had been a starter in his early professional years, but injuries and the desire to exploit his two best pitches -- high 90s heat and a sharp slider -- made him a natural for relief.

Following in the footsteps of Troy Percival, with whom he's most frequently compared, Walden has 10 consecutive successful save efforts and is 17 for 20 overall. The Angels closer has been blazing as the weather has warmed up, striking out 12 of the 22 batters he has faced this month. Five of his past six outs have been strikeouts, and he wrapped up Jered Weaver's 2-1 decision over the Marlins on Monday night quickly, needing only 12 pitches.

"I felt good," Walden said grinning. "I like this weather. It's kind of like home [Fort Worth]. I've never faced these guys. One thing I noticed was that it's real dark here. It's different."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia is impressed with Walden's demeanor since he inherited the closer's role from Fernando Rodney early in the season and ran with it.

"He's definitely grown," Scioscia said. "His confidence has grown as he's gotten in that role. You can be confident and feel you're ready, but until you do it, you never know. He's taken this challenge and gone full bore. He's really having a terrific season."