With Frieri on board, back end of 'pen firming up

With Frieri on board, back end of 'pen firming up

SEATTLE -- At the start of the season, the bullpen was anything but consistent for the Angels. As far as strengths and weaknesses went for the ballclub, it was definitely more of the latter.

But as the year progresses, things are changing. The emergence of Ernesto Frieri as a potential closer has solidified the back end of the Angels bullpen. Left-hander Scott Downs continues to throw well, and displaced closer Jordan Walden has turned around a poor start to the season. With three relievers that can occupy the closer role, manager Mike Scioscia maintains that he wants to play the matchups.

In the past 10 games, the bullpen has given up just three earned runs in 30 1/3 innings, good for a 0.89 ERA.

"The depth issue of having, not only Ernesto Frieri, but Scott Downs remaining pitching well, and Jordan Walden reemerging, that's critical to what we need and what we want to do," Scioscia said. "You have to keep that back end functional, and there's no doubt our depth in the back end is the best it's been all year. It's going to win us games.

"Scott's a guy we'd like to get in the ninth inning, but if we would need him earlier, then we have some other options. Especially with the two right-handed arms that we feel can pitch behind Scott if they had to. But we'll look at things leading up, what the game flow is and how we want to set it up. I don't know if we have to sit down and every day say, 'This guy is going to close right now.' "

Frieri has solidified the bullpen since he came to the Angels from the Padres in a May 3 trade, turning heads with a historic start. Entering Wednesday, he had fanned 19 batters, the most strikeouts ever by an Angels pitcher in his first 8 2/3 innings with the team. He also had not given up a hit.

The one knock Frieri has is losing command, as evidenced by his six walks in his short time with the Angels. But Scioscia isn't too bothered with the free passes.

"Like most guys, most hard throwers, occasionally there's going to be a walk in his game," Scioscia said. "But I think he's managed it very well, for not only what we've seen here, but for his career. His walks are a little high, but if you look at his numbers, his arm plays big time."