ARLINGTON -- Slowly but surely, Jordan Walden seems to be getting better on the mound -- and, thusly, so is his role.
Walden, who went from closing to temporary mopup duty after a blown save on April 26, pitched a clean seventh inning against the Rangers on Saturday, preserving the two-run lead the Angels eventually won by. The 24-year-old right-hander, who mainly needed to work on his slider command, now hasn't given up a hit in either of his last three outings, walking just one and striking out two in that 2 2/3-innings span.
With LaTroy Hawkins nursing a broken pinkie, Walden has returned to the holding-leads section of manager Mike Scioscia's bullpen, joining Ernesto Frieri (seemingly the setup man) and lefty Scott Downs (who replaced him in the ninth).
Can Walden reclaim the closer's role if he keeps pitching this way?
"If that evolves, I think we're better off in the long run that way," Scioscia said. "But the thing is, you're not just looking at the last three outs, you're really looking at the last six, seven, eight outs. If you can get some depth there to have some options and be able to match up, it gives you stronger looks at times. But we're going to let it go where it goes. I don't think we need to force anything right now."