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Fuentes finding his groove with Angels

Fuentes finding his groove

NEW YORK -- After a frustrating beginning to his career as an Angel, new closer Brian Fuentes appears to be finding his wings and gliding along in style.

Checking out the new Yankee Stadium on Thursday, Fuentes said he's ready to go for a third day in a row if manager Mike Scioscia dials his number.

Fuentes struck out two of the three Orioles he faced in a perfect ninth inning on Wednesday night, preserving a one-run lead and enabling the Angels to take both games of the series from the O's. It was his fifth save in six opportunities.

Over his past five outings, Fuentes has yielded just one run, a solo homer by Baltimore's Adam Jones on Tuesday night when he finished the job in a 7-5 win. Three earned runs against the A's in one inning on April 8 will take a while to reduce his ERA to a more Fuentes-like level, but he's at 5.63, shaving it slice by slice.

"I feel like I've had moments of feeling right," Fuentes said. "Even against Oakland [on April 8] I felt good, but some things didn't fall in place and I blew a save.

"Every day is a progression," Fuentes said. "Yesterday, having to protect a one-run lead, I had to be focused. I didn't walk anybody. I got the first guy out, that's the key. I went to a full count with two guys and ended up getting a popup and a strikeout.

"I'm throwing strikes, not giving up free bases. I've pitched two days in a row and I feel good, so that's a good sign.

"I'm live today if they need me."

Fuentes' interior numbers are solid, indicative of high-caliber stuff: 12 strikeouts against three walks and 10 hits in eight innings.

He's never been one to light up the radar gun, but if he's in the 88-92 mph range, he feels he's where he needs to be with his velocity.

"Sometimes if I feel I'm not throwing with [velocity] and I'm seeing 85 or 86 on the gun, I know there's a problem," he said. "As long as I'm 88 to 91, sometimes a little above that, I'm fine.

"The slider's fine, and the changeup is there when I need it. It depends on the hitter more so than how it feels that day. Some guys are better offspeed hitters than others."

Fuentes feels his relationships with catchers Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis are moving in positive directions.

"It's getting better," the closer said. "I feel we're more on the same page. As I'm thinking about what I want to throw, they're coming up with the sign that I'm thinking about."

All signs and systems appear to be go for the man from Merced, Calif.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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