Frieri brings lively arm to Angels' bullpen

Frieri brings lively arm to Angels' bullpen

Frieri brings lively arm to Angels' bullpen
ANAHEIM -- Ernesto Frieri, the Angels' new reliever, developed his arm strength the old-fashioned way: by waking up at 4 a.m. and methodically grinding corn at his grandmother's tamale stand in Colombia as a 12-year-old.

"Then when I was like 14, I started playing baseball," Frieri said, "and when I first picked up the baseball and threw it I was like, 'Wow, I have a good arm.'"

And he's never really had any arm troubles.

"My shoulder's always fine," Frieri, now 26, said. "I get sore like everybody else, but that's about it."

Frieri's right arm helped him put together some pretty impressive lines while pitching in mostly low-leverage situations in some pretty stacked Padres bullpens, posting a 2.33 ERA, a 1.24 WHIP and 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings in 105 appearances through parts of four years.

Now the Angels, who acquired him Thursday for Minor League infielder Alexi Amarista and right-hander Donn Roach, are hoping he can help their beleaguered relief corps.

"I'm just here to pitch," said Frieri, whose addition to the roster meant Kevin Jepsen was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake. "To throw the ball and attack the strike zone, get people out and try to help them win some games."

The Angels are still trying to get a feel for Frieri -- who sports a lively fastball, a deceptive delivery and a sharp-breaking slider -- but manager Mike Scioscia said Friday he'll pitch "later in the game as opposed to the middle," adding: "All reports point to a guy who really will fit into our bullpen and be able to be a part of the component that's going to hold leads for us."

Signed in 2003 out of Cartagena, Colombia -- the same city where former Angels shortstop Orlando Cabrera grew up -- Frieri is under club control for five years and shares two traits with Angels ace Jered Weaver: He throws across his body and gives up a lot of fly balls, to which Angel Stadium tends to be forgiving.

"Whenever I give up a ground ball," Frieri said, "I'm like, 'Really, wow.'"

Frieri can also be a bit wild. He averaged 4.9 walks per nine innings and hit nine batters in 63 innings during his first full season last year -- which saw him finish with a 2.71 ERA -- but he believes he has taken steps to improve that this year, as he's walked just four batters, struck out 18 and put up a 2.31 ERA in 11 2/3 innings.

Frieri was initially crushed about the deal, considering he had been in the Padres' organization for eight years.

"But two hours later," Frieri said, "I was like, 'Wow, that's a really good team, so yeah, why not?'"