Downs in, Walden out as Angels' closer

Downs in, Walden out as Angels' closer

Downs in, Walden out as Angels' closer
CLEVELAND -- Less than 24 hours after he served up a walk-off homer to the Rays' Brandon Allen, Angels right-hander Jordan Walden has been removed from the closer role.

Southpaw Scott Downs will take over ninth-inning duties until Walden proves capable to return to the role. Manager Mike Scioscia listed demonstrating better command, putting hitters away when ahead and controlling counts as three areas in which Walden needs to improve.

"It should be a quick fix for what Jordan needs," Scioscia said. "We'll see how that progresses. Right now, we're in a time where we're trying to better define some roles down there."

Walden has yielded four runs on five hits and four walks in six appearances spanning 4 1/3 innings.

"When he gets his stuff right, his stuff plays in the closer spot," Scioscia said. "But he needs to get it right first, and that's what we'll work toward."

Scioscia doesn't want Walden experimenting with the game on the line. Therefore, it's unlikely that the 24-year-old will simply switch to the eighth until ready to reassume the ninth. The Angels' skipper hopes a series of progressive outings in low-pressure situations can boost Walden's confidence.

"Most of this is really just for the physical aspect," Scioscia said, "of being able to put him in the situation where he can still help our bullpen, but be able to throw some pitches when the game isn't going to be won or lost, and he can have more of a practice platform to get his game where it needs to be. Confidence sometimes takes a hit when you're not getting the results you want."

Scioscia remained adamant that Walden possesses the makeup of a closer, who must have the ability to perform with little to no margin for error and a short memory to move past forgettable outings.

Last season, Walden recorded 32 saves in 42 opportunities, while posting a 2.98 ERA and striking out 67 in 60 1/3 innings.

"Jordan, for stretches last year, really pitched great baseball for us," Scioscia said. "There were maybe some more blown saves than some of his peers had, but it wasn't totally off the charts to the point where you say, 'Wow, that guy's not made up to be a closer.' He showed he had, not only the stuff to pitch in the back end of the game, but he showed he had the mentality last year.

"I don't think this has anything to do with makeup as it does with the physicality of repeating a pitch and being able to get a breaking ball that's consistent, which he has shown, but right now, it's just not where it needs to be."