SEATTLE -- Somewhere along the way, amid woeful struggles that caused him to temporarily lose his job as the Angels' closer, Ernesto Frieri forgot about something.
"I forgot how to have fun," Frieri said in Spanish on Saturday. "That's what I'm doing now -- I'm having fun."
Granted, this game can be a lot more enjoyable when you have success. And Frieri is having it again, pitching six consecutive scoreless innings immediately following a two-week stretch that saw him give up 12 earned runs in 4 2/3 innings and blow two saves.
On Friday night, Frieri earned his first save in three weeks, striking out the side to preserve a 2-0 win at Safeco Field. And on Saturday, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Frieri will "primarily" go back to closing -- though he added that Dane De La Rosa will continue to get opportunities.
"The decision a manager makes is something you can't control," Frieri said of Scioscia's decision to temporarily remove him from the ninth at the end of July. "This team has struggled all year. And Mike wants to win. He's given me a lot of opportunities, which I'm very grateful for. But in that moment, we needed to win. I lost a lot of important games that we needed to win, and with everything that's happening with the team, you can't throw away games like that."
At some point leading up to his woeful late July and early August, Frieri lost the late life on his patented cutter, which is prone to happen from time to time. And so, for a two- to three-week stretch, he relied heavily on his shaky slider and changeup and threw fewer fastballs than ever.
"That's when I kind of fell into desperation mode," Frieri said. "I was worried. My fastball wasn't working, so I decided to throw my breaking pitches more, show [hitters] that I had good breaking pitches, and nothing came out."
Then came Aug. 10 in Cleveland. Frieri, four days removed from two consecutive rough outings, entered the ninth inning with a five-run lead and got three quick outs on nine pitches -- eight of them fastballs.
"I just finally realized that that's just not my game," said Frieri, who has a 4.25 ERA and is 27-for-31 in saves this season. "My thing is throwing my fastball, be aggressive. These last six outings, that's been the difference - the late life on my fastball, which hitters aren't putting good swings on. That's what I need to have all year."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.Less