Angels relievers are working plenty of overtime

Coello called up Saturday, could be 20th arm used by club this season

Angels relievers are working plenty of overtime

CHICAGO -- Relievers, by nature, live sporadic lifestyles. But on the Angels -- with three important relievers still on the disabled list, another one still ailing and two starting pitchers currently away from the rotation -- it's at a completely different level.

Consider …

• Michael Kohn, 13 months removed from Tommy John surgery, operated under strict rules during his first month in Triple-A: If he cleaned up an inning, he wouldn't come out to start the next one; and if he pitched one day, he automatically had the next day off. On the Angels, he's appeared in five out of the last six games heading into Saturday.

• Dane De La Rosa, a 30-year-old with 12 1/3 innings of Major League experience heading into 2013, had appeared in 12 of the last 21, eight of the last 14 and four of the last six. No wonder some in the organization know him simply as "Everyday Dane."

• Garrett Richards and his precious, 24-year-old right arm were used for short-inning relief early in the season, then moved to the rotation when Jered Weaver broke his left elbow, then transitioned back to the bullpen because the Angels needed help late in games. After taking four turns as a starter, he's appeared in only three games this month, totaling 2 1/3 innings.

• Ernesto Frieri, the closer on a team that has won only 13 of its first 35 games, has the most infrequent usage of them all. He didn't pitch at all from April 15-20, then appeared in three straight games. He had four days off leading into Thursday against the Astros, then recorded a five-out save that night -- already his second this season -- and pitched the ninth in Friday's 7-5 win.

"You just have to be ready every day, physically and mentally," Frieri said in Spanish. "Every day, I learn more about this role, on what works for me, and I think I'm handling it fine."

Robert Coello was called up in place of outfielder Scott Cousins on Saturday. If he appears in a game, he'll be the 20th pitcher used by the club already this season. They've never used that many so early -- but they've had little choice.

Weaver is still out with a broken left elbow, Tommy Hanson is on the restricted list, Kevin Jepsen has been sidelined since April 11 with a strained lat, Scott Downs hurt his right foot on Thursday, Sean Burnett has forearm soreness and Ryan Madson is still working through the final stages of Tommy John surgery.

Pitching coach Mike Butcher checks in with his relievers every day to make sure their arms are holding up fine to these unusual circumstances. So far, they've been fine. All he asks is that they're completely honest, and even if they aren't, Butcher said he has a good feel for when he needs to pull back the reins.

He doesn't look at the current situation as over-extending guys.

"I look at it as an opportunity for a lot of guys, to come up here and find their niche," Butcher said. "… A lot of guys, through injuries, create their own opportunities. There's been a lot of opportunities this year for several guys to come up here and show what they're capable of doing. Some guys have taken advantage of that, obviously."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.