Apr 14, 2010, 6:00 PM EDT
With Brian Fuentes on the DL, the Angels are definitely short-handed in the bullpen. I’d argue that they’re down to two above average relievers, one of whom, Fernando Rodney, happens to be struggling, having given up four runs in four appearances after finishing with an 8.53 ERA this spring.
The other, Kevin Jepsen, is the most important piece in the bullpen right now. He bailed the Angels out in the eighth inning Wednesday against the Yankees after Scot Shields got the team into a big jam in what had been a 5-1 game.
It’s Shields who looks like the biggest problem in the Angels pen right now. It’s not that he’s necessarily worse than Francisco Rodriguez or Brian Stokes. But the problem is that Mike Scioscia is treating him as a valuable setup man when he barely rates as a fringe middle reliever.
Shields was scored upon for the third time in four appearances before being replaced by Jepsen on Wednesday. With his velocity down after last year’s knee surgery, he’s allowed six runs (three earned), five hits and four walks in just 2 2/3 innings. His WHIP stands at 3.38.
The fact is that Angels GM Tony Reagins blew it over the winter. It’s typical that the Halos have avoided minor league free agents, particularly on the pitching side of the equation, as they usually prefer their internal replacements. But it was obvious that the team was terribly lacking in the depth department going into the spring. The Angels should have been all over guys like Kiko Calero, Joaquin Benoit, Joe Nelson, Ron Mahay and others who slipped through the cracks over the winter, but they didn’t have a single veteran non-roster pitcher compete for a bullpen job this spring.
They’re going to pay for it now. They should consider themselves awfully lucky if someone from the group of Francisco Rodriguez, Fernando Rodriguez, Bobby Cassevah and Michael Kohn steps up to become a useful reliever. Actually, the best hope may be their former No. 1 starting pitching prospect, Jordan Walden, who was shifted to the bullpen this spring and is currently a co-closer in Double-A.
In the meantime, expect Shields and company to struggle. I’m certainly not giving up on these Angels, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they’re still in last place in the AL West into mid-May.
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