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Three-time All-Star praises setup men

Three-time All-Star praises setup men

ARLINGTON -- Sometimes, the best-laid plans are left blowing in the wind.

So it is with the back end of the Angels' bullpen.

In the grand plan, it was to go like this: Jose Arredondo-to-Scot Shields-to-Brian Fuentes. The Angel were hoping it would function as famously as Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance.

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Instead, it's been more like Chance-to-Chance-to-Fuentes.

"It doesn't matter how you get there, as long as you get there," Fuentes said, taking a pragmatic -- and sane -- approach to the whole issue. "I'm confident the guys ahead of me are going to get the job done."

Whatever their names might be. Lately, Darren Oliver, Justin Speier and Jason Bulger have been handling most of the duties in the seventh and eighth, and faring quite well, thank you.

"We have [23] saves as a team," Fuentes said, having accounted for 22, Shields taking one before knee surgery cost him the rest of the season. "There's no way I got those without the rest of my guys.

"For me, it's my first year here, so this is the norm. I wasn't here when it was Shields, Arredondo and Francisco Rodriguez. These guys are my guys."

Since June 12, when the Angels began a three-game sweep of the Padres and a stretch of 13 wins in 17 games, the bullpen has been solid.

It is 4-0 in that stretch with a 3.38 ERA in 45 1/3 innings. Fuentes was perfect in June (8-for-8 in saves, no earned runs in 8 2/3 innings). Speier has yielded only three earned runs in his past 18 innings, and Bulger hasn't given up a run in 21 of his past 24 appearances.

"We scuffled out of the gate as a club," Fuentes said. "A lot of people are pitching well now. Having a veteran presence down there with Justin, Darren and myself, you get through it. It's a long season, and you learn how to take it as it comes."

With four children, all 3 years old and younger, at home, Fuentes is accustomed to staying busy. He'll be happy to spend more quality time with his family after a stretch of 18 road games in the past 27. July brings 17 home games, nine on the road -- and a three-game All-Star break.

Fuentes is a candidate to spend the break in St. Louis, representing the American League.

"As a closer," said the three-time NL All-Star with the Rockies, "there's no time to dwell on the bad games -- or the good games. My biggest save is always going to be the next one."

Tied with the Padres' Heath Bell for the MLB lead with 22 saves heading into Wednesday's games, Fuentes -- and his revolving door of associates -- must be doing something right.

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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