ANAHEIM -- During the winter, Dane De La Rosa altered his offseason routine in hopes that 2013 would be different.
Prior to this season, De La Rosa's Major League service time was limited to a couple of brief stints with the Rays, and the 30-year old wanted to finally establish himself as a Major Leaguer.
Not only has De La Rosa proven himself a valuable member of the Angels' bullpen, but he is also going to get a chance to save some games in the final weeks of the season.
"It's actually a little more relaxing for me knowing I'm probably not going to get in until the eighth or ninth," De La Rosa said. "You can say, 'OK this is what you're going to do in the fifth, start getting ready in the sixth and go from there.' You're not caught off guard with, 'Oh, starters are giving up some hits, got to get my mind right to get in the game.'"
Although he only has one save this season, closing is nothing new for De La Rosa. The reliever spent a lot of time closing in the Minors and accumulated 20 saves for Triple-A Durham in 2012.
While closing certainly comes with pressure, De La Rosa embraces it and believes it helps him pitch his best.
"I think it's easier to pitch," De La Rosa said of the final frame. "It's a lot easier to have adrenaline, a little more gas in the tank when it's a close game or you know this is the last inning. When you're down by six and pitching in the fifth, it's a little different than pitching the ninth."
The closer's role opened up a bit when Ernesto Frieri started to struggle, but the fact De La Rosa is getting an opportunity to prove himself is a testament to how far he has come this season
"When he first started pitching, I think he was feeling for it a little bit and he was consistently 91-92 [mph] then, the more he got comfortable, his velocity jumped up to where he's throwing 95-97 now," Chris Iannetta said. "He's becoming more of a complete pitcher as time goes on. He's still working and he still has a lot of work to do to get to where I think he eventually can be, but he's definitely on the right track."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. William Boor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.