Joe Smith said he will return from a sprained ankle on Wednesday to assist a taxed Angels bullpen. The set-up man for closer Huston Street, who is likely sidelined for the rest of the regular season, isn’t sure what his role will be.
“Most likely back end, but we’re still going to have to match up a little bit and that doesn’t mean that Joe might not come in in the eighth inning to get out of something real heavy and maybe somebody else is the closer,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “I’m not going to rule out that he won’t be closing, you know what I mean. So I guess basically, we’ll see.”
Smith, who is 5-5 with a 3.71 ERA, sprained his ankle falling down a flight of stairs in a Minneapolis hotel Sept. 19, but his workouts this week have been increasingly encouraging. A Wednesday return is not a certainty, but Scioscia said it was “realistic.” Smith got positive results in a bullpen session Tuesday and also did fielding drills to his satisfaction.
Only seven teams have fewer innings pitched by their bullpen this season than the Angels. But losses of Smith and Street have stressed the remaining arms to the point the Angels signed Mat Latos Monday after the right-hander posted a 6.66 ERA in five starts and one relief appearance with the Dodgers this season.
Five one-run games during the six-game winning streak the Angels carried into Tuesday have stressed the bullpen more than usual.
“They’ve taken a toll on us and they’ll continue to take a toll on us as far as our bullpen,” Scioscia said. “Especially if you’re winning a lot of one-run games, which is great, the fallout is it really taxes your bullpen, and a bullpen which right now isn’t as deep as it was…Hopefully we’ll have enough in our tank, six more one-run games we can win, to hold those leads.”