WASHINGTON — The
Frieri, whose hold on his ninth-inning job was tenuous, failed to protect a three-run lead in a stunning 5-4 walk-off loss to the Washington Nationals, leaving Manager Mike Scioscia little choice but to replace Frieri as closer with setup man Joe Smith.
Asked point-blank if he was looking to make a change at closer, Scioscia said, "No." But that doesn't mean he won't look to make a change before Friday's game against the New York Yankees.
Frieri is 0-2 with a 9.35 earned-run average and two blown saves in 10 games this season, and he's given up five home runs in 82/3 innings, a pace even
Scioscia demoted Frieri from the closer role after a rough patch last summer, and Frieri responded well, working his way back to the ninth inning by season's end.
Asked if that made him less hesitant to make a similar move, Scioscia said, "If that's what's needed, you're obviously going to consider it. … If we need to take some pressure off [Frieri], you always consider moves you have to make. We need somebody to get those last six or seven outs."
While Scioscia addressed the media, most of the Angels were in the clubhouse dining area. Frieri was practically alone in the locker room, staring into his corner cubicle for several minutes, shaking his head and pulling his jersey over his eyes.
Seeing the desolate state his closer was in, Scioscia walked over, offered some words of encouragement and a pat on the back. Frieri was practically inconsolable.
"It stinks, man, because we're playing really good baseball," Frieri said. "
Frieri's first mistake was an 0-and-2 pitch that
Scioscia pulled Frieri in favor of
"I'm missing with everything — my fastball, my changeup, my slider," Frieri said. "My arm feels good. My fastball is coming out good too. I'm just missing. … Even when I'm ahead in the count, man. I can't be leaving balls down the middle, because I'm going to get hurt."
Confidence doesn't seem to be as much of an issue for Frieri as execution.
"The bottom line is making pitches," Scioscia said. "The inability to do that can come from a lot of causes — confidence, mechanics, stuff, losing a release point. I think Ernie is confident; he's always turning the ball loose. But right now, he has to get that fastball in better zones and put guys away. It's in him. We just need to get him a little more consistent."