Los Angeles Angels: Jason Bulger

Did the Angels demote the right relievers?

April, 11, 2011
4/11/11
3:30
PM PT
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.

The trickle-down effect of Downs' injury

March, 16, 2011
3/16/11
10:56
AM PT
The Angels are saying that Scott Downs will be re-evaluated in two weeks, but let’s face it. You don’t come back from a broken bone, even if it is your big toe, in two weeks.

The Angels’ top left-handed reliever probably will be out for 6-8 weeks, putting him on target for a late-April or early-May return.

Wednesday’s news was unwelcome for Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who relies heavily on his late-inning relievers. The Angels were hopeful for a dramatic turnaround after their relievers had the ninth-best ERA (4.03) in the American League last year.

They forked over $23 million to sign Downs and Hisanori Takahashi. That’s pretty serious freight for lefty middle relievers, who typically aren’t valued highly on the free-agent market.

As timing goes, this injury doesn’t feel catastrophic. In a way, it eases a logjam of young relievers who look capable of doing big things. The Angels can slide Takahashi into the late-inning role that Downs would have filled, say in an eighth inning when a couple of good left-handed hitters are due to bat.

Scioscia has indicated he’ll likely begin the season with 12 pitchers. It’s likely the bullpen will look like this: Fernando Rodney (closer), Takahashi (lefty setup), Kevin Jepsen (righty setup), Jordan Walden, Michael Kohn, Jason Bulger and Rich Thompson.

Francisco Rodriguez looks like an outsider at this point, largely because he – unlikely Thompson or Bulger – has minor-league options.

It's not a name-brand bullpen, but it has promise. Every reliever other than Takahashi is capable of throwing at least 93 mph. Rodney, Jepsen and Walden all consistently pitched at 95 mph-plus. Kohn hasn’t allowed a run in six innings this spring; Thompson and Walden have been scoreless in four; and Bulger (2.08 ERA) has also pitched well.

Downs’ break was a tough one, but it gives the Angels a month or so to figure out who their best seven relievers are. If they're lucky, the tough roster decision will come when he gets back.

Angels add team psychologist

February, 24, 2011
2/24/11
2:01
PM PT
The Angels have brought back Cal State Fullerton sports psychologist Ken Ravizza as a consultant.

Ravizza, who has worked with the Titans baseball team as well as Olympic athletes and golfers, worked for the Angels from 1985 to 2000 before taking a job with the Tampa Bay Rays the past three season. He is a long-time friend of Rays manager Joe Maddon.

Ravizza has been meeting with Angels position players and pitchers in voluntary group sessions the past two days in camp.

In 2009, when reliever Jason Bulger was struggling and in danger of being demoted to Triple-A, Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher arranged a meeting with Ravizza. Bulger has continued to consult with him from time to time.

"When your arm is sore, you go see a trainer. When your mechanics are messed up, you talk to the pitching coach. The mental side of the game is so crucial and he's somebody who can really help you with that," Bulger said.

Ravizza said his emphasis is on maximizing the players' performance rather than on doing any deep psychoanalysis. He also is an authority on stress management and coping strategies.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Howie Kendrick
BA HR RBI R
.293 7 75 85
OTHER LEADERS
HRM. Trout 36
RBIM. Trout 111
RM. Trout 115
OPSM. Trout .939
WJ. Weaver 18
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOJ. Weaver 169