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Did the Angels demote the right relievers?

4/11/2011

The two roster moves the Angels announced after Sunday's game weren't shockers, but the corollary moves were mildly surprising.

The team needed a starter for Monday and 21-year-old prospect Tyler Chatwood seems as good a choice as any. Veteran reliever Scott Downs was ready to return from the disabled list.

But should Kevin Jepsen and Michael Kohn have been the guys boarding a plane for Salt Lake City? Jepsen was one of the Angels' most important late-inning relievers last year. Two years ago, he pitched three games in the ALCS against the New York Yankees. Kohn has the look of an up and comer, having been dominant in the spring and last September.

Both relievers struggled in their early outings. Jepsen's WHIP was 2.25. His strikeouts were down, an average of just 2.25 per nine innings. Both relievers walked too many batters (Jepsen with four in four innings, Kohn with three in 3 2/3 innings).

But Jason Bulger had struggled in roughly equal measure. Bulger has walked eight batters in five innings. His WHIP (2.00) is roughly the equal of Jepsen's. He hasn't given up an earned run, but he did give up a home run in extra innings that cost the Angels a game.

It's not always what happens on the field that makes these decisions. Bulger had one major advantage: no minor-league options. The Angels couldn't demote Bulger without risking losing him to another team via waivers. His stuff looks improved over last season as well, so the Angels clearly made this move based on not wanting to lose a pitcher with good raw stuff.

Jepsen admitted he was pretty shocked.

"It's always tough to swallow," he said.