Apr 5, 2011, 5:26 PM EDT
That was quick.
Earlier today I wondered if Scott Downs might be an option to replace Fernando Rodney as the Angels’ closer if he came off the disabled list before manager Mike Scioscia was comfortable giving rookie Jordan Walden a shot at the job, but apparently he was already comfortable.
Even at his best Rodney is a setup-caliber reliever who’s been given several opportunities to be a closer and with his command abandoning him early on this season the switch is justified, albeit much sooner than expected.
Walden impressed in his 16-appearance debut last season, racking up 23 strikeouts in 15 innings thanks to his high-90s fastball and mid-80s slider combination. In fact, at 98.8 miles per hour Walden’s average fastball velocity was the third-highest in all of baseball among pitchers with 10-plus innings in 2010, behind only Aroldis Chapman (99.6 mph) and Joel Zumaya (99.3 mph).
His minor-league track record was surprisingly mediocre even after making the transition from starter to reliever, but Walden has overpowering raw stuff and if the 23-year-old rookie falters in the closer role the Angels can always turn to Downs (or back to Rodney, perhaps) in a couple weeks.
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