SAN DIEGO - Angels reliever Ernesto Frieri spent 15 minutes fraternizing on the field with good friends while the Padres were taking batting practice at Petco Park -- then he realized that's no longer his home.
"I was like, 'I can't be talking to you guys anymore,'" Frieri said in Spanish Friday. "'You're the enemy now.'"
It was a little over two weeks ago that the Angels plucked Frieri from a Padres team they're now facing in a weekend set, acquiring the right-hander in exchange for infielder Alexi Amarista -- now the everyday San Diego second baseman following the release of Orlando Hudson -- and Minor League pitcher Donn Roach.
Since switching over, all Frieri has done is put up zeroes and compile strikeouts, hurling 5 2/3 hitless innings while walking four and striking out 12.
Frieri won't keep that pace up, but he is known for his strikeout totals -- he's averaged 11.7 K's per nine innings through 110 appearances in the big leagues -- and he should continue to be effective with his lively fastball and deceptive delivery.
In San Diego, Frieri was buried in the middle innings, with guys like Luke Gregerson and, previously, Mike Adams and Heath Bell, pitching late in games.
But in Anaheim's depleted relief corps, Frieri has a crucial late-inning role. He had been pitched mostly as a setup man to closer Scott Downs, but in Friday's 7-2 win, Downs pitched the eighth and Frieri pitched the ninth. And had the Angels not scored three in the top half, the 26-year-old right-hander would've come on for his first Major League save.
The situation played out that way because Angels manager Mike Scioscia wanted to use Downs' left arm against an array of Padres lefty hitters who were coming up earlier in the game.
It's Frieri's success that has given him the freedom to do that.
"It might change tomorrow," Scioscia said, "but right now, we're going to match up a little bit late in the game."