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Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Bullpen's bumblings test Mike Scioscia

By Mark Saxon

Dan Haren
Dan Haren threw only 85 pitches before he was pulled from his start Tuesday against the A's.

ANAHEIM -- It would appear Mike Scioscia is having a difficult time getting a feel for this team.

Given a deep, but unwieldy roster, he has been unwilling to pick his best nine hitters and stick with them. Left without a reliable bullpen, he's finding his late-game pitching moves are backfiring.

And it has made for an awkward, sideways start to a season filled with promise.

Scioscia seemed to be grasping for something solid and came up empty in Tuesday night's 5-3 loss to the Oakland A's. Pitcher Dan Haren was far from dominant and hasn't been yet this season, but when Scioscia pulled him after 85 pitches, the Angels clinging to a 2-1 lead, you had a feeling things could get weird.

Scott Downs got out of the jam, but his arrival in the seventh slotted other relievers into roles they haven't proven they can handle and things imploded the following inning. Oakland scored four times off Kevin Jepsen and rookie David Carpenter.

What, exactly, did Scioscia see in this bullpen that suggested it would drive this game home safely? In its two previous save chances, it had blown it.

"I thought Dan was getting a little bit tired," Scioscia said. "He'd come off a couple of outings where his stuff just wasn't as crisp as it should have been. I think he was holding up, but we just didn't feel it was going to be the right time to try to stretch him."

Haren said he wasn't "fatigued by any means," but he figured his night was over after he saw Downs warming up and -- after Kurt Suzuki's single -- Daric Barton coming to the plate. Barton had hit a solo home run off Haren just inside the right-field pole in his previous at-bat.

"Of course, the competitor in me -- and everybody -- wants to stay in the game...," Haren said. "It's not my call."

Managers look smarter when their players perform. Scioscia's best teams have tended to have stifling relief, but the 2012 version is, if anything, looking shakier than the 2011 bullpen. That will present a vast array of challenges to Scioscia, particularly if Albert Pujols and the rest of the offense stay stuck on mediocre.

"You can only say, 'It's still early,' for so long," Haren said. "At some point, you've got to start playing better."