The Angel bullpen worked without its safety net Saturday night.
Reliever Troy Percival was unavailable because of a sore shoulder, according to team officials. So the Angels had to look elsewhere to close out a 2-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
Rich DeLucia got the call. He put the Royals down 1-2-3, starting the ninth by striking out Dean Palmer and finishing it by striking out Jeff Conine. It was his third save of the season but first since June 22.
"I kind of figured it would be me tonight," DeLucia said. "When Percy is down, they really don't tell us anything. But [Shigetoshi] Hasegawa pitched yesterday and I'd had a couple days rest. I guess we'll do it as a bullpen."
Best case scenario will have the Angels using Team Closer for one more game, as Manager Terry Collins said Percival would miss today's game. Percival said he could have pitched Saturday if needed, even though his velocity was off by about six miles per hour because of what he called a "weak" shoulder.
But Angel scenarios, this season and in their history, don't tend to fall in the "Best Case" category.
"I took a day off," said Percival, who has 38 saves this season. "It's only the second mandatory day I've taken off all season. I needed a day where I didn't pick up a baseball.
"When I lose six mph, I'm still throwing 92. I'm ready to pitch, if they need me."
Collins said he won't be needed today.
"The guys in the bullpen will just have to step it up," Percival said.
They did Saturday.
Pep Harris relieved starter Jack McDowell with two on and two outs in the seventh. He got Mike Sweeney to line out to center fielder Jim Edmonds. Harris handled the Royals in the eighth, striking out two, to put the Angels in Percival territory but without Percival to take them through it.
"We knew we had to pick it up a notch," Harris said. "But this is our job."
A year ago, DeLucia's job was mainly watching and rehabilitating. An aneurysm was discovered in his shoulder in July and he underwent surgery. DeLucia was activated on Sept. 2 and appeared in four games, but was little help as the Angels battled Seattle for the West Division title.
"That crushed me," DeLucia said. "That's why I'm taking it all in this year. This is what baseball is all about, to be in a pennant race in September."
DeLucia, who is 2-5 with a 4.41 earned-run average, has pitched well of late. He has given up two runs in his last 15 innings, covering 11 appearances. He has struck out 17 batters in that time.
Larry Sutton (Mater Dei High) was the only Royal to touch the ball against him Saturday, as he hit a lazy fly ball to right.
"I thought it was going to be the whole bullpen tonight," DeLucia said. "It almost was."
Said Collins: "If Conine would have got on, I had Allen Watson ready to pitch to Hal Morris. If Morris had got on, I had Hasegawa backing him up."
And that's the way it will be be. At least, the Angels hope, for a one more day.