Los Angeles Angels: Kevin Jepsen

3 up, 3 down: Angels 4, Mariners 3

September, 26, 2012

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It might feel as if the Los Angeles Angels are running in place in the standings but at least they're still in the running with seven games left to play in the season.

On Wednesday night, the Angels beat the Seattle Mariners, 4-3, as Torii Hunter hit a walk-off single to score Maicer Izturis and give the Angels a much-needed comeback win, keeping their postseason hopes alive. The Angels are now two games out of the final American League wild-card spot with one more home game left against Seattle and six more on the road.

The Good:

Hunter steps up: Hunter is making the @KeepTorii contingent at Angel Stadium look like geniuses lately. His .341 batting average since the All-Star break is the third best in the AL over that span and he has come through for the team time after time with clutch hits, including Wednesday night's heroics. It was Hunter's second walk-off hit this season. Hunter also hit a single to shallow right center to score Peter Bourjos in the seventh inning to tie the score at 3-3.

Aybar's shot: Erick Aybar is another player who has been on a tear as of late for the Angels. His .357 clip since the start of August ranks third in the majors and first in the AL and he is batting .332 since the All-Star break, which is good for eighth in the AL. On Wednesday he hit a two-run double to left to score Kendrys Morales and Alberto Callaspo and give the Angels an early 2-0 lead.

Bullpen shines: After C.J. Wilson was pulled, the Angels' bullpen kept the team in the game, not allowing a run through the final four innings. The combination of Jerome Williams, Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri pitched 3 2/3 innings, giving up no hits and no runs.

The Bad:

Wilson, again: By Wilson's standards it wasn't the worst start, but it wasn't good either. Wilson pitched 5 1/3 innings, giving up three runs, all earned, and five hits, including a home run. This is the first season Wilson has recorded double-digit losses. Wilson has thrown quality starts in just three of his last 10 starts and 20 of 31 overall. On the bright side, Wilson did record his 800th career strikeout in the game.

Pujols strikes out: Despite finally getting on base late in the game, it wasn't the best night for Albert Pujols, who struck out his first three times at bat before finally recording a hit. Pujols has actually been batting .316 over his last 15 games and had six RBIs in his previous four games before Wednesday night, when Felix Hernandez rendered him completely ineffective.

Oakland and Baltimore win: The only way the Angels are going to play their way into the postseason is by having teams like the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles (and even the Tampa Bay Rays) lose. On Wednesday night, all of those teams won, meaning the Angels were unable to gain any ground.

Pitchers dominate, but Angels can't gain ground

September, 26, 2012
Zack GreinkeJeff Gross/Getty ImagesZack Greinke had 13 strikeouts in five innings but had to leave the game early because of a high pitch count.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Los Angeles Angels pitcher Zack Greinke became the first pitcher in the modern era to strike out 13 batters in five innings, and yet the Angels gained no ground.

As a team, the Angels tied a major league strikeout record, and yet they remain where they were when the day started.

The Angels' pitchers dominated in a 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium, but because the Oakland Athletics rallied for a 3-2, 10-inning victory over the Texas Rangers, the Angels remain two games out of the final wild-card spot with eight games to play.

The Angels also could not put any distance between themselves and the Tampa Bay Rays because the Rays also won and remained a game behind the Angels in the chase for that final wild-card spot.

The Angels' inability to change their position in the standings put a damper on a historical pitching performance Tuesday night.

"That sucks," said outfielder Torii Hunter, who hit a two-run home run Tuesday. "Trust me, we're scoreboard-watching. I don't care what nobody says. I am."

A few more pitching performances like they got Tuesday and the Angels should be able to make up that ground before the season ends.

Greinke, Garrett Richards, Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri combined to whiff 20 Mariners and tied the major league record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game. The Chicago Cubs (1998) and Boston Red Sox (1986, 1996) have also had 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game.

The Angles were the first to use multiple players to reach that number, however, as Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens turned the trick by themselves for the Cubs and Red Sox.

Greinke certainly had the stuff to match that, but his pitch count piled up to 110 by the end of the fifth inning and he had to come out of the game with the Angels leading, 4-1. It was the third consecutive good start Greinke had to leave early because of his pitch count.

But unlike the past two, when Frieri blew leads in the ninth inning, the bullpen held on to keep the Angels breathing in the playoff chase.

"I was just trying to get ahead of guys, and that was the plan," Greinke said. "It just kind of worked out that I got a bunch of strikeouts early, and then later on I kind of had to go for a strikeout because there were people in scoring position in a close game. Kind of fluky, I would say, is the main thing that happened.”

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3 up, 3 down: Angels 6, A's 0

September, 13, 2012

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Jered Weaver may have skipped a start with biceps tendinitis but in his return Thursday in a 6-0 win over the Oakland A's, he didn't look like he'd skipped a beat.

The Angels' ace looked to be back in dominant form as he struck out nine and gave up just two hits in seven strong innings to keep the Angels' flickering wild card hopes alive.

After struggling to score against the A's young guns in the first three games of this series, the Angels broke out in the finale as eight of the Angels' nine batters in the starting lineup got at least one hit.

Torii Hunter broke a scoreless tie with a solo homer to lead off the bottom of seventh and the flood gates were open. The Angels batted around, scoring six runs on RBIs from Hunter, Mark Trumbo, Alberto Callaspo and Hunter again to chase A's starter Brett Anderson.

The Angels' win snapped their three-game losing streak and halted the A's winning streak at six.

The Good:

Hunter continues to lead: Hunter smacked a home run to break a scoreless tie in the seventh, setting the Angels on a much-needed offensive roll. It wasn't so much the run that mattered, but the feeling it created among his teammates. All the pressure and the frustration that had built up over three straight losses and through the first six innings Thursday was lifted. With a run on the board, the Angels relaxed and scored five more runs.

Aybar keeps rolling: Shortstop Erick Aybar extended his season-long hit streak to 13 games with his 28th double of the season in the seventh. Aybar is now batting .320 with 25 runs in 34 games since coming off the disabled list.

Weaver back in form: It wasn't altogether clear how much the Angels would get from Weaver after he skipped his start last week to rest biceps tendinitis in his right arm. Manager Mike Scioscia was leery of extending him much farther than 100 pitches before the game. But Weaver was again masterful, striking out nine, walking one and giving up just two hits to stop what could've been a demoralizing sweep at the hands of the A's.

The Bad:

Failure to deliver: Albert Pujols was the only Angels starter not to record a hit Thursday. After blasting his 30th home run Wednesday night, Pujols went 0-for-3 with a strike out on Thursday. He grounded out with a runner at third in the sixth inning, which felt pivotal until the Angels exploded for six runs in the seventh.

Picking on Jepsen: It feels a little nitpicky to single out a guy who pitched a scoreless eighth inning, but that's how good the Angels pitching was on Thursday. Kevin Jepsen ran into a little trouble when he allowed two-out singles to Jemile Weeks and Coco Crisp, but got Seth Smith to strike out to strand runners at first and third. It was the second straight shaky outing for Jepsen, who allowed two runs in the top of the ninth Tuesday night in the game the Angels lost 6-5 despite a two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth.

Those who like Hunter in the No. 2 hole: It may be a temporary thing, but with Kendrys Morales getting the day off, Scioscia inserted Callaspo into the No. 2 spot and slid Hunter into the cleanup spot. Callaspo went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and Hunter was 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Morales got a day off after going just 2-for-12 in this series.

Frieri should be a good bullpen fit

May, 4, 2012
ANAHEIM -- Ernesto Frieri was enjoying an off-day Thursday with his wife and baby girl in San Diego when he received a call from Padres general manager Josh Byrnes, who informed him that he had just been traded to the Angels in exchange for minor leaguers Alexi Amarista and Donn Roach.

"I was like, 'Wow,' " Frieri said Friday before the Angels hosted the Toronto Blue Jays. "But then, two hours later, I was like, 'Wow, that's a really good team. I'll take it.' I'm very glad to be here."

Frieri, a 26-year-old right-hander from Colombia, received even more assurance from Padres manager Bud Black, a former pitching coach with the Angels under Mike Scioscia.

"He said, 'Ernie, you're going to a great organization,' " Frieri said. "He told me that Scioscia is a really nice guy and that there's a great coaching staff here. I believe him."

Scioscia says he hopes Frieri can help strengthen the back-end of the bullpen. Angels relievers ranked 26th in the majors with a 4.89 ERA heading into Friday's game.

"All reports point to a guy that will really fit in our bullpen and be part of a component that will hold leads for us," Scioscia said.

To make room for Frieri the Angels optioned right-hander Kevin Jepsen (0-1, 10.29 ERA) to Triple-A Salt Lake City.

"He needs to get on the mound and get hitters out," Scioscia said of Jepsen. "Hopefully he's going to get his game together to where he can be a part of our bullpen in the near future. We need an arm like that, no doubt."

Chris Iannetta, meanwhile, is out of the starting lineup for the second consecutive night as he nurses a sore right wrist. Iannetta was hit by a pitch Wednesday against the Minnesota Twins and X-rays were negative. Scioscia said Iannetta would be available Friday if needed.

In other catching news, Jeff Mathis will make his first appearance in Anaheim since being shipped off to Toronto in a December trade. Mathis spent seven years with the Angels.

Lineups for Friday's game:

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3 Up, 3 Down: Indians 3, Angels 2

April, 27, 2012

The Angels played a game, so their bullpen must have blown a game, right?

It only sounds like a bad joke. For the second day in a row, the Angels lost on a team's final at-bat, with the Cleveland Indians erasing a 2-0 lead in the final three innings Friday to win on Asdrubal Cabrera's game-winning single, 3-2.

It was the Angels' fifth loss in a row and their eighth in 10 games.

The Good:

Hungry Hunter. One of the few guys you can't blame this implosion on is Torii Hunter. He broke out of his 2012 homer-less streak -- including spring training -- with his first long ball of the year and threw out a runner at the plate with a brilliant, no-hop throw from right field. Hunter, 36, is playing some of the best baseball of his career, but like Mark Trumbo the day before, he can't do it alone.

Hard worker. Jered Weaver seemed like he was having trouble gripping the hard balls in high 40s temperatures and, as a result, he had to fight hard to get through a quality start. Weaver walked four batters, two weeks' worth for him in some stretches, and needed 115 pitches to get through six innings. Still, when your starter gives you six scoreless innings, you should have a pretty good shot. Right now, the Angels don't. Next up, Dan Haren. Good luck.

LaTroy Hawkins. Yeah, the 39-year-old veteran gave up two hits in the eighth inning. But any time an Angels reliever gets through an inning without giving up runs, it's noteworthy. With this bullpen, you're forced to grade on a pretty shallow curve.

The Bad:

Bullpen disaster. The Angels have tried a lot of combinations, but maybe they just don't have enough quality pitchers in their bullpen. Earlier in the day, manager Mike Scioscia announced that Jordan Walden was being replaced at closer by veteran Scott Downs. But before Downs had a chance, Hisanori Takahashi and Kevin Jepsen had already frittered away the lead. Curiously, it was rookie David Carpenter pitching the ninth inning of a tie game and losing it, but who else did Scioscia really have to go to?

Coming around? Albert Pujols seems to be taking better at-bats, but the results so far haven't been dramatically different. He lined a single to left and smashed a ball to the third baseman for an out, but he remains homer-less after 80 at-bats, the second-longest stretch of his career. You almost get the impression almost everybody in the Angels' lineup is feeling Pujols' stress.

No-hit zone. The Angels just don't get enough base runners to pressure teams and they rarely come through in the clutch. They managed four hits in nine innings, kind of par for the course nowadays. It's been a broken record for three weeks. Alberto Callaspo (.186), Erick Aybar (.216) and Peter Bourjos (.178) aren't hitting, so they rarely have any action on the bases. The slumps by peripheral hitters are exacerbating the hole in the middle left by Pujols.

3 up, 3 down: A's 5, Angels 3

April, 17, 2012

ANAHEIM -- The Angels continued to stagger through the early part of their schedule, blowing an eighth-inning lead and losing 5-3 to one of the more anemic teams in baseball, the Oakland A's.

In a familiar theme, the bullpen was the primary culprit, but the offense has been a disappointment so far, as well.

The Good:

Command center. It seemed a bit curious when Mike Scioscia came to get the ball from Dan Haren with two on and two out in the seventh inning. Yes, Daric Barton had homered off Haren earlier in the game, but Haren had only thrown 85 pitches and Scioscia normally gives his best starters some leeway. Haren wasn't dominant (two strikeouts), but he was plenty good running at less than 100 percent against the worst lineup in the American League. Haren came right at them, throwing strikes with 74 percent of his pitches.

Peter picker. It's almost like a bonus if Peter Bourjos gets any hits. That's how much value he brings with his legs and glove. He swung the game in the middle innings by, first, leaping at the wall to take a home run away from Josh Donaldson and, second, dribbling a grounder to the shortstop to drive in the tying run a half-inning later. He's off to a slow start at the plate, but who cares when he erases everything hit to the middle of the outfield?

Turnaround time. Man, has Kendrys Morales been streaky. He tore up the Cactus League before hitting a lull at the end of spring training and he's doing the same thing in the first two weeks of the season. Morales had one hit and seven strikeouts in his previous 23 at-bats before going 5 for his last 8. He scored the go-ahead run from second on Torii Hunter's single to left though it didn't stand up.

The Bad:

Relief foibles. So far, Angels relievers have had three save opportunities and blown all three. Again, poor relief is threatening to send this team into an early funk. Kevin Jepsen was part of that mess last year and he's part of it again this year. He got a quick strikeout, but then walked two straight batters before giving up a pair of sharp hits to Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick. The whole thing was set in motion by Scioscia's early hook of Haren, which brought Scott Downs into the game in the seventh instead of the eighth.

The funk. It might be time to slip Erick Aybar out of the leadoff spot for a bit, perhaps even give him a day off. The shortstop is even jumpier than usual at the plate. He has four hits in his last 28 at-bats and he struck out twice, hearing a few boos in the process. Aybar's not exactly setting a bounteous table these days, batting .171 and with two walks all season. Maybe a lineout to the shortstop in his final at-bat will get him going.

The Funk. This Albert Pujols homerless streak is starting to feel like a real thing. He has never gone this long in a season without hitting a long ball. He averages one home run every 14.3 at-bats in his career and, this season, he has gone 45 at-bats without one. Then again, the former is probably more remarkable than the latter. No reason to panic, but if he hasn't hit one by the end of the week, panic. He had a 3-and-1 count in the ninth inning and hit a towering infield pop-up.

3 up, 3 down: Angels 7, Yankees 1

April, 14, 2012
NEW YORK -- The Angels got a much-needed respite from their early-season struggles with a well-rounded 7-1 win over the New York Yankees on a beautiful Saturday in the Bronx.

The Good:

Rising ace. The Angels have only gotten three quality starts so far and two of them have been C.J. Wilson's work. The hitters gave him early runs again and the lefty took them and ran with it. Wilson (2-0) works efficiently, fields his position well -- except for a rushed throw to Albert Pujols that resulted in an error -- and isn't afraid to pitch aggressively inside. One reason you have three aces is you're hoping one of them will be a stopper at all times. Right now, it's Wilson.

Slump busters. Howie Kendrick was 0-for-the roadtrip (12 at-bats) coming into this game and Vernon Wells was... Well, I think we all know how things have been going for him lately. Saturday was a breakout game for both players. Kendrick had three hits -- including a no-doubt three-run home run into the left-field seats -- and Wells became the first Angel to hit his second home run. Oh, and a guy named Albert Pujols, who was hitting .222 coming in, went 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI.

Lead holds! Did the Angels simply find the comfort level for their bullpen -- a six-run lead -- or was Saturday a genuine step forward for the weakest area of the team? Kevin Jepsen, who had a miserable outing in Minnesota, breezed through the heart of New York's order in the seventh and LaTroy Hawkins and Jordan Walden, getting a little work, tidied up the last two innings nicely.

The Bad:

Still squirming. Before the game, Kendrys Morales admitted he's far from comfortable at the plate. Nothing that happened a couple of hours later indicated he's getting any more at ease. Morales went 0-for-5 to extend his slump to 1-for-23 with seven strikeouts. He still seems like the logical cleanup hitter, but he won't be for long if this keeps up. Of course, that leads us to...

Missing pop? Has Torii Hunter's bat slowed down now that he's 36? He has hustled his way to two doubles this season, but otherwise all of his hits are singles. That wouldn't feel like a pattern this early if he had been crushing balls in spring training. He never homered in Arizona. Hunter struck out three times Saturday.

Just missing. The last thing Peter Bourjos wants to do is strike out. It's such a waste of his brilliant speed. But being more patient hasn't necessarily helped him get on base as he struggles to learn the skills of a leadoff hitter. He struck out three times, twice looking, and now is tied with Wells for the team lead in strikeouts (eight). With Bourjos, strikeouts are the stat to watch.

3 up, 3 down: Twins 10, Angels 9

April, 12, 2012
The Angels' biggest worry is proving more troublesome than they feared.

The bullpen has blown leads in back-to-back games, but Thursday's unraveling bordered on spectacular. In part because of an ankle injury to Scott Downs, two Angels relievers were thrust into high-leverage roles, and the result was a 10-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins in which the Angels frittered away leads of 6-0 and 7-6.

It was the first time the Angels had blown a six-run lead and lost since 1994.

The Good:

Igniting Pete. Peter Bourjos' inside-the-park home run Wednesday was the essence of his game, pure speed, hustle and energy in motion. It seems to have awakened his bat, as well. Bourjos had some clutch hits, including the go-ahead single in the eighth inning after the Angels had blown an early six-run lead.

Fighting to the end. As poorly as the bullpen pitched, the Angels had every opportunity to shut it down and get ready to go play higher-profile games in New York. The offense rallied after having seen leads blown -- twice -- nearly tying it in the ninth inning. The tying run got to second base against closer Matt Capps, but the Angels couldn't get the run in.

Bouncing back. Dan Haren wasn't exactly crisp judging by the nine hits he allowed, but it was a step forward after his rough outing Saturday at home against Kansas City. Haren struck out seven Twins and pitched well enough, barely, for the Angels to get out of town with a win and some confidence. Unfortunately for him and the team, the bullpen didn't have his back.

The Bad:

Relief mess 1. Kevin Jepsen might be throwing as hard as he ever has, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have to make quality pitches. The big right-hander got hit hard in the seventh inning, giving up a home run to -- guess who? -- Josh Willingham, an Angel killer, and giving up three runs to snatch a win away from Dan Haren, who got through five shaky innings.

Relief mess 2. This time of the season is absolutely crucial for relievers, who are trying to pitch their way into key roles and cement their careers. Rich Thompson might have made it impossible for manager Mike Scioscia to use him in meaningful spots in the future. Scioscia entrusted Thompson with a delicate one-run lead after the offense had battled back, seeing two of its leads disappear. Thompson gave up a two-run home run to Justin Morneau but couldn't contain the damage even after that, letting it get out of hand.

Out of sorts. The heart of the Angels' order was hardly beating most of the game. Howie Kendrick, Albert Pujols and Torii Hunter were a combined 2-for-14 and didn't drive in a run. Pujols will have the (slight) embarrassment of bringing his .217 early batting average into his first game at the new Yankee Stadium on Friday afternoon. Think Yankees fans will let him hear about it?

Jepsen finds an old friend (his fastball)

April, 10, 2012
Kevin Jepsen wasn’t himself.

He was only 90 percent of himself, because he entered last season 25 pounds off his normal pitching weight of 240 pounds. Trimming down generally is a good idea, particularly if you are a professional athlete, but Jepsen thinks it hurt him.

“I drop and drive so much. Last year, I didn’t really have my legs under me, so when I was dropping … it was a mess,” Jepsen said.

If early indications are to be believed, the Angels could have a key cog in their bullpen back. Jepsen led all Angels relievers in strikeouts in 2010, but struggled badly last year (7.62 ERA) and spent the majority of the season at Triple-A.

Sunday against Kansas City, Jepsen proved he has gotten his stuff back, perhaps with a little bit extra. His fastballs were all in the upper 90s, according to the stadium radar, and he threw one pitch past Royals catcher Humberto Quintero at 100 mph. Each of Jepsen’s first two appearances have been scoreless, a far cry from the way 2011 began for him.

“It was nice. I had that excited calm liked I used to have, knowing when I was out there that I wasn’t thinking too much,” Jepsen said. “It was like, ‘I know where I need to be. Here it comes.'"

Doctors performed arthroscopic right knee surgery on Jepsen last August, ending his season a bit early. He was only on crutches one day and began physical therapy within a week. Now, he not only feels he has the proper weight to drive the ball, but the legs under him to support all that momentum.

“Driving the ball downhill, through the mitt, is the biggest thing for me,” Jepsen said.

Teamed with closer Jordan Walden, Jepsen gives the Angels two of the hardest-throwing relievers in baseball. Teamed with lefty Scott Downs and right-hander LaTroy Hawkins, he could give the Angels a nice array of choices for the eighth inning of tight games.

While Jepsen may have re-discovered his fastball, the Angels re-discovered an important aspect of their team.

3 Up, 3 Down: Royals 7, Angels 3

April, 8, 2012

ANAHEIM -- The Angels still have high expectations for 2012, but they didn't give their home fans much of an early showcase in their opening series. The Angels looked unsteady on the bases, inconsistent at the plate and shaky in the field during the three games against Kansas City that concluded with Sunday's 7-3 loss.

The Good:

Albert Pujols looks like Albert Pujols again and that's as encouraging as anything around this team for now. He picked up his first RBI in the first inning on a chopper to the third baseman and had two hits, including a double into the left-center field gap. The problem was the three hitters behind Pujols, who combined to go 1-for-14 with seven strikeouts and stranded people all over the yard. Pujols was on base four times and never scored. That can't happen often or this is going to be a disappointing season.

Kevin Jepsen looks like a different guy, or at least the 2010 version of Jepsen. He threw a 100-mph fastball, according to the stadium radar, to Humberto Quintero and breezed through the eighth inning. If he's as good as Sunday's performance suggested, his presence could bolster a questionable bullpen. Don't be surprised to see manager Mike Scioscia move him into higher-pressure spots if he keeps throwing the ball like this.

You would expect the Angels to score a bunch of runs when the people who hit in front of Pujols get on base six times. Erick Aybar didn't walk all weekend, but he found ways to get on base, including once on a strikeout-wild pitch. Howie Kendrick keeps smashing the ball, even on the double play he hit into.

The Bad:

He hit .218 last year and is 1 for his last 12, so it seems reasonable to wonder whether Vernon Wells has simply lost the ability to hit consistently at this level. He struck out three times, twice on pitches above his shoulders. He hit a solo home run when the Angels trailed 7-2 in the eighth. In all, he stranded five runners and heard pretty loud boos after his third and fifth-inning at-bats. Even if the Angels remain committed to him (and the $63 million they owe him suggests they are), you wonder if he should ever bat as high as fifth until he proves he has turned it around.

Is it Mark Trumbo's fault that he has made three errors in two games at third base, or are the Angels trying to force a square peg into a round hole? It's too early to know whether the experiment is going to work, but early clues aren't promising. If Trumbo can't make the difficult transition to third, what do you do with him? It would be a shame to waste his powerful bat on the bench and there aren't many prospective at-bats in the outfield or at DH. It could become one of their tougher problems.

While the Angels struggle with some of the finer points, including base running and fielding, they would have hoped their excellent starting pitching would keep them afloat. But Dan Haren and Ervin Santana struggled in back-to-back starts. This Kansas City lineup is not a pushover, but you wouldn't expect pitchers of these guys' caliber to allow 10 combined runs. The rotation should be fine, but it's getting off to a shaky start.

Is the bullpen still the weak link?

April, 3, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Things have gone so smoothly this spring for Albert Pujols, Kendrys Morales and the Angels’ four aces, fans’ angst has to drift somewhere and it has landed on the bullpen. Is it this team’s Achilles heel?

Evidence this spring has suggested it might be, and the Angels’ front office apparently shares the fans’ concern. Already, general manager Jerry Dipoto has signed a couple of free agents with major league experience, Jason Isringhausen and David Pauley, to minor league deals.

And his search for arms hasn’t ended. Dipoto has been working the phones fairly aggressively, a source said, to try to dig up pitchers that can secure leads for Angels starters and make the rebuilt offense’s work stand up.

“If you said, ‘Would you want to add bullpen depth? Well, of course,’ “ manager Mike Scioscia said, “but if we don’t, I think we’re in a position where we’re going to be very comfortable if guys just pitch to their potential.”

It’s not that the bullpen has looked bad, just unsteady. And with the money owner Arte Moreno has spent to improve other areas, it’s a major, maybe fatal, gamble to enter a season with uncertainty in such a key area.

Some signs are positive -- the Angels clocked closer Jordan Walden throwing more than 100 mph this spring and Kevin Jepsen, whose velocity was diminished by a knee injury last year, at 98 mph. Lefty Hisanori Takahashi had pitched nine scoreless innings before a wobbly outing at Dodger Stadium Tuesday.

Even Isringhausen’s struggles may not be as dire as they appear. Monday night, he threw practically all sinkers, a pitch he doesn’t throw during the regular season, simply to see if he could get a feel.

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TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Los Angeles Angels renewed the contract of closer Jordan Walden and reached agreements on one-year deals with 21 other young players.

Peter Bourjos, Hank Conger, Kevin Jepsen, Michael Kohn, Brad Mills, Garrett Richards, Rich Thompson, Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo and Bobby Wilson were among the players who reached agreement.

When a team renews a player’s contract, it typically signals a dispute over salary. The Angels didn’t release terms of the contracts, but each of them figures to be for around the major-league minimum, $480,000.

Walden reached the All-Star game in his rookie season last year, but also blew 10 saves, tied for the major-league lead.

Help wanted: middle relief

July, 20, 2011
One area the Angels could improve before the trade deadline without costing them much in terms either of dollars or prospects is their middle relief.

It has been a mess all season, with a revolving carousel of pitchers who have failed to lock down the sixth through eighth innings, including Kevin Jepsen, Jason Bulger, Michael Kohn, Michael Thompson and Hisanori Takahashi.

Next up is seven-year veteran Horacio Ramirez, a left-hander who was recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake before Wednesday's game. Kohn, who surrendered three home runs Tuesday night, went back down.

There reportedly are dozens of middle relievers available before the deadline, though thus far there has been little movement. Middle relief has historically been one of the Angels' strong suits, with skilled non-closers like Scot Shields, Brendan Donnelly and Francisco Rodriguez getting the ball to the ninth inning for a time.

"Some of that's been frustrating," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think we've lost some games with the inability to keep ourselves close, to give ourselves a shot at comebacks. We haven't made some teams work as hard as they needed to to win games."

Here are the lineups for Wednesday's game vs. the first-place Texas Rangers, who -- by the way -- also are in the market for setup help:


1. Ian Kinsler 2B

2. Elvis Andrus SS

3. Josh Hamilton LF

4. Adrian Beltre 3B

5. Michael Young DH

6. David Murphy RF

7. Yorvit Torrealba C

8. Mitch Moreland 1B

9. Endy Chavez CF


1. Erick Aybar SS

2. Torii Hunter RF

3. Bobby Abreu DH

4. Vernon Wells LF

5. Alberto Callaspo 3B

6. Howie Kendrick 2B

7. Mark Trumbo 1B

8. Bobby Wilson C

9. Mike Trout CF

Did the Angels demote the right relievers?

April, 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.

Kevin Jepsen and the fine art of adjusting

April, 3, 2011
It's been a rough start for reliever Kevin Jepsen. On Opening Day, he allowed a home run and two walks. Two days later, he coughed up two runs on four singles.

In his third full season, Jepsen wonders whether the league is starting to figure him out. All four of the hits he allowed Saturday were on cutters, a pitch he has been throwing for less than two years.

Jepsen thinks the Kansas City Royals might have a scouting report that tells them he likes to throw his cutter in certain counts. Other teams have had more time to figure out ways to hit him as well.

Jepsen threw over the winter with former major-league reliever Mike Fetters, who pitched 16 seasons. Fetters suggested he make adjustments this season. A couple of Angels veterans, Torii Hunter and Scott Downs, hammered the point home in a long postgame chat after Saturday's game.

"He told me about every three years or so, you need to make a little adjustment, change it up because the league’s going to adjust to you," Jepsen said. "This is the big leagues."

The fact the Angels players are talking among themselves after games speaks well to the camaraderie on this team. It could also have some benefit on the field, but you never know about on-field chemistry.

"It’s cathartic, all that stuff you do after a game," manager Mike Scioscia said. "There’s a lot of little counseling that goes on, but there’s definitely a process you have to go through whether you have a great game or a poor game. There's a process of getting out of it and moving on to the next game."



Jered Weaver
18 3.59 169 213
BAH. Kendrick .293
HRM. Trout 36
RBIM. Trout 111
RM. Trout 115
OPSM. Trout .939
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOJ. Weaver 169