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Lyle Spencer

As the Halos bullpen gate turns

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ANAHEIM -- An area of concern all season, the Angels bullpen remains the subject of daily scrutiny and maintenance by manager Mike Scioscia and pitching coach Mike Butcher.

For a weekend series against the Rangers starting Friday night, after Cam Bedrosian and Ernesto Frieri let a two-run lead get away in Cleveland on Thursday, it was anybody's guess who might get the call in a potential ninth-inning save situation.

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Right-handers Joe Smith and Kevin Jepsen seemed to be the most likely candidates to fill the closer's role after Frieri's latest misstep, yielding a walk-off grand slam to Nick Swisher of the Indians in relief of Bedrosian. Mike Morin (1.21 ERA in 21 appearances) is also an option, and southpaw Hector Santiago is in the bullpen, temporarily at least, with Matt Shoemaker the choice to start Sunday's series finale.

"We want to see how the game evolves," Scioscia said. "A lot of attention is put on Ernie and getting back in his game. We need him. We have Joe Smith and Kevin Jepsen throwing very well. We'll see what the matchups are, how the last four to six outs shape up."

Smith has five saves and eight holds, Jepsen four holds and no saves. Santiago, bidding to reclaim his spot in the rotation after a sluggish start to the season, was primarily a reliever with the White Sox in 2012 before emerging as a starter last year.

Jepsen once was regarded as the closer of the future, but he has never settled into that role, set back by various injuries and struggling to "find a consistent arm slot," according to Scioscia.

"This is as consistent as we've seen him," Scioscia said. "His stuff is every bit as electric as it's been. I think this is the best equipped he's ever been" to fill the closer's role. "Basically, he's a more complete pitcher."

Jepsen had a streak of 11 consecutive hitless appearances from May 7 to June 5. He has a 2.84 ERA in 32 appearances with 32 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings while holding hitters to a .191 batting average.

"I feel good," Jepsen said. "I'm ready for anything."

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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