The Angels added a potential closer in Ryan Madson and a proven lefty specialist in Sean Burnett. How all the bullpen roles shake out, and who will be the seventh reliever, are important questions that need to be resolved in spring training.
Only two teams blew more saves than the Angels’ 22 last year. That and a lousy all-around first month cost them a playoff berth, and the rebuilt bullpen needs to be better in 2013. Here’s the complete list of spring training invitees (non-roster invitees in parentheses):
Can Madson, who did not pitch in 2012 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, be the closer he was for Philadelphia in 2011 (32-for-34 in save situations)? The Angels bet $3.25 million that he can. Jerry DiPoto said that the Moreno Valley native “will come into spring training and compete for that (closer) role.” If Madson fails, the options are between Frieri and mining for another diamond in the rough – like Frieri last year.
The 27-year-old had a 0.75 ERA as the Angels’ closer before the 2012 All-Star break and a 4.50 ERA afterward. Since he had no experience closing games before last year, Frieri must prove his first half was no fluke — beginning now. If Madson becomes the closer, Frieri has shown he can handle the eighth inning in the past.
Jepsen was outstanding in a seventh/eighth inning role after spending a month in Triple-A last year. He and Frieri can touch 97 on a radar gun; Madson probably can’t anymore. In theory, that means the trio should be able to offer three different looks in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. To make that happen, Jepsen needs to show the same consistency in spring that got him through the second half of last season.
Burnett, who’s pitched no fewer than 69 games in a season the last four years, is one of the game’s steadiest left-handed relief specialists. The 30-year-old southpaw enters spring with little to prove, other than that his repertoire works just as well on American League hitters after six seasons in the National League.
The 36-year-old lefty was the Angels’ most consistent reliever last season, save a stretch in July and August when he was bothered by shoulder tightness. He’ll earn $5 million in the final year of his contract this season. Like Burnett, his role is all but assured so long as his sinkerball keeps hitters off-balance.
Williams is he who is: a 31-year-old journeyman who will accept whatever role the Angels give him. Assuming Mike Scioscia wants to keep a spot starter/long reliever, that choice might be between Williams and Garrett Richards. At this time a year ago, the two were battling for the fifth spot in the rotation.
The 23-year-old’s rise from the University of Florida in 2011 to September call-up last year was impressive. But was it a fluke? Maronde has never pitched in Triple-A before and the Angels can risk burning an option this year if he falters during the spring. He’s battling the pitchers listed below for the final spot in the bullpen.
Shoulder issues limited Cassevah to one Cactus League game the last two years. He ended up splitting the 2012 season between Anaheim and Triple-A. Being healthy would give him a great chance of starting the season in the majors.
Carpenter, a 2009 ninth-round draft pick, racked up the frequent-flyer miles between Anaheim and Salt Lake City last year. In 28 major-league games, the right-hander displayed the ability to pitch multiple innings out the bullpen and finished with a 4.76 ERA in 39 2/3 innings.
The Angels would love to see immediate returns after Sisk was acquired in the Ervin Santana trade from the Kansas City Royals. After a strong season for Triple-A Omaha, a strong spring could lift the left-hander into the final bullpen spot.
The 25-year-old has steadily climbed the minor-league ladder and finally pitched two games for the Angels last August. Geltz is listed at 5-10, 170 pounds, and was never drafted, a true underdog for the final bullpen job.
The 26-year-old right-hander missed all of 2012 following Tommy John surgery. He’d like to re-establish himself in the majors but the Angels might like to see what he can do at Triple-A first.
Brasier led Triple-A Salt Lake in appearances last season, his sixth as a professional. The 25-year-old right-hander was the Bees’ best reliever much of the year, and his first major-league game seems within reach.
Taylor has also been steadily climbing the organizational ladder since being drafted by the Angels in 2008. His first three major-league appearances featured four walks and three earned runs in 2 1/3 innings. Spring training offers a chance to forget his 11.57 career ERA.
Kevin Johnson (NRI)
This will be the first spring training for Johnson, a 20th-round draft pick in 2010 who got his first taste of Triple-A in 2012.
Robert Coello (NRI)
The 28-year-old journeyman (171 minor-league games, 12 major-league games in six seasons) signed a minor-league contract in January. He split last year between the Blue Jays and their Triple-A affiliate.
Hiroyuki Kobayashi (NRI)
The 34-year-old righty has 11 years of experience in NPB, the top league in Japan, and pitched one inning in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. He converted from a starter to a reliever in 2010 and saved 29 games for the Chiba Lotte Marines. Kobayashi didn’t pitch in NPB last year.
Mitch Stetter (NRI)
Stetter was a steady set-up man for the Brewers in 2009, but has struggled to stay in the majors since. He had hip surgery in 2011 and came back to Milwaukee on a minor-league deal last year. The 6-foot-4 lefty hasn’t pitched a major-league game since 2011.
Tony Pena (NRI)
This isn’t Tony Peña Jr. This is The Pitcher Formerly Known As Adriano Rosario. The 31-year-old right-hander hasn’t pitched in the majors since being released by the White Sox in 2011.
Fernando Cabrera (NRI)
The 31-year-old right-hander joined his seventh organization on a minor-league deal in January. He has pitched in 132 major-league games, none since July 2010.