When Joe Smith says he isn’t worried, the Angels reliever is easy to believe. Despite two blown saves and a loss in his last five appearances, the set-up man rattled off a list of reasons on Wednesday why panic isn’t in his immediate future.
He took it so far as to spin his most disturbing outing, Tuesday night’s three runs on four hits in ⅓ of an inning, as a positive. Smith’s stint turned the Angels’ one-run lead in the eighth inning into a two-run deficit, but he argued rookie catcher Carlos Perez’s walk-off home run completed a comeback win over the Mariners that was more inspirational than a conventional victory would have been.
“The results obviously weren’t what I wanted,” Smith said of his performance, “But it was really cool seeing this team string together some great at-bats and come from behind. Sometimes that means more to a team than Garrett (Richards) goes seven, I go eight, (Huston Street) goes nine and we just win.”
The Angels didn’t trade for Matt Joyce so he could replace Josh Hamilton. But that’s how the scenario played out.
An increased role from part-time outfielder and fill-in designated hitter to replacement for a five-time All-Star and former AL MVP was certainly to the detriment of the former Tampa Bay Rays outfielder, who admitted Monday night to feeling added pressure.
“For sure,” Joyce said. “I can’t sit here and say I didn’t feel a lot of pressure or put a lot of pressure on myself to do, or to fill his shoes.”
Joyce hit his first home run of the season Monday, 81 at-bats into his tenure with the Angels. The offseason acquisition in a trade that sent reliever Kevin Jepsen to Tampa Bay is hitting .148, but was out of the lineup on Wednesday for the second consecutive game despite signs he was turning a corner.
“You just want to be successful,” Joyce said. “You’re in a new place, a new environment with that kind of high expectations. It’s tough to go out there and relax sometimes because you want to do so well. I mean this is what you wait your whole life for.”
Even Mike Scioscia’s optimistic approach to Jered Weaver doesn’t include expectations for the Angels’ Opening Day starter to regain velocity.
Weaver’s fastball averages somewhere between 83 and 84 mph, something the Angels manager said isn’t tied to the 32-year-old’s issues with his release point. The end result is an 0-4 record and a 6.29 ERA.
“I don’t think the release point issue is going to add velocity, but I think it’s going to give him the command,” Scioscia said. “Whether the velocity comes or it doesn’t come, he’s not that far from last year when he won 18 games.”
Rookie catcher Carlos Perez will make his major league debut tonight against the Seattle Mariners, a day after he was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake. It sounds as if Perez, 24, will be more than a backup to struggling starter Chris Iannetta.
“I’d imagine Chris will catch a little bit more, but Carlos is going to get his playing time for sure,” Scioscia said. “I don’t know if I’m going to put an arbitrary number on how many games guys are going to catch. Carlos will get an opportunity to play and Chris is still going to play. We’ll give them both their looks and see how things progress.”
Perez hit .361 in Triple-A with two home runs and 12 RBIs in 72 at-bats while Iannetta is hitting .094 with no home runs and 1 RBI in 64 at-bats.