Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Scioscia In No Hurry To Make Closer Change

To no one's surprise, Angels manager Mike Scioscia was peppered with questions regarding the team's closer situation Tuesday, less than 24 hours after Brian Fuentes gave up 3 runs on 3 hits and a walk for his second blown save of the season.  Luckily, the Angels were able to pull out the victory in 11 innings, but despite the win, the fans and the media were still screaming for a change at the end of the bullpen.

Fuentes has obviously struggled this season, evidenced by his 7.04 ERA and his three home runs allowed in just 7 2/3 innings.  Those numbers kind of make it hard for fans to remember that Fuentes led the majors with 48 saves last season.  However, last year is last year, and as Janet Jackson once sang, fans want to know "What have you done for me lately?"

It's a good thing for Fuentes that Scioscia is a little more patient than the fans and media.  The Angels manager spent the better part of 20 minutes Tuesday not defending Fuentes, but rather defending his choice to wait a while longer before doing anything drastic: i.e., handing the closer duties over to 8th-inning specialist Fernando Rodney.

"It's a little premature to make wholesale changes," Scioscia said. "If things progress and we feel we'll be stronger making an adjustment, we'll do it, but right now we want this thing to play its way out with (Kevin) Jepsen, (Scot) Shields and Rodney and then Fuentes."

Scioscia has long maintained that the Angels bullpen is at its best if the rotation is laid out the way he describes.  Plus, he thinks the major issue is not whether Fuentes is the closer or the setup man, but rather how he well or poorly he's pitching.  As the Angels manager points out, if Fuentes is struggling in the 9th inning, there's a pretty good chance he would struggle in the 8th inning.  Struggles are struggles, no matter what inning in which you are pitching.

But even with that being said, the fact remains that Rodney has been quite successful in the closer role, both previously and this year with the Angels.  Last season in Detroit, Rodney saved 37 of 38 games.  This year while Fuentes was recovering from a sore back, Rodney was a perfect 5-for-5 in save opportunities--thus, giving even more fuel to the "Swap Rodney For Fuentes" calls from the critics, but don't expect Scioscia to be easily swayed by the pressure.

"We'll shuffle the deck if we have to, but right now there have been a couple tough appearances from Brian, but we feel we need to have our guys lined up the way they are," Scioscia said. "It's our best look and we want to see if it will keep moving forward."

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