The Angels found a temporary solution to the indefinite loss of their closer when they scored four late runs Saturday against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
With a five-run cushion in the ninth inning against an average-hitting team, the Angels had little use for even an injury-free Troy Percival. Seldom-used reliever Mickey Callaway got the job done, retiring the Devil Rays in order to secure a 7-2 victory that ended a three-game losing streak before 41,414 at Edison Field.
Nevertheless, the Angels realize that their bullpen must endure more pressure-packed moments while Percival recuperates from degenerative changes in his hip joint and a strained right gluteus muscle, which are expected to keep the overpowering right-hander out at least two weeks and possibly much longer.
“It’s obviously going to help if we can keep swinging the bats to give our guys a little breathing room out there on the mound, but I don’t think you’re going to absorb Percy’s loss with offense,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “We need guys in the bullpen to do the job.”
Scott Schoeneweis and Callaway answered the call Saturday, supporting another fine outing by starter John Lackey with two innings of scoreless relief. Lackey (3-4) continued to display the form that has resurrected his season from a lifeless start, giving up four hits and two runs over seven innings while relying on a four-seam fastball and slider mixed with an occasional changeup.
“I’ve made some big strides the last couple of outings,” said Lackey, who registered his third consecutive quality start and has issued only one walk over his last 30 1/3 innings. “The biggest is command of the fastball. I’ve gotten ahead a lot better the last couple of times out, and that opens up a lot of options later on in the count.”
Troy Glaus, moved up three spots to No. 2 in the batting order, may have seen more hittable pitches than the Tampa Bay lineup. The third baseman capitalized, tying a career high with four hits, including a solo home run in the seventh inning and a three-run double in the eighth that put the game out of reach. He drove in four runs.
“I’ve been able to take advantage of some pitches that have been up, where maybe a month ago I would foul them off,” said Glaus, who has gone nine for 17 over the first five games of this homestand to raise his batting average from .278 to .303. “I feel pretty good right now.”
The Angels had Brendan Donnelly warming up in the bullpen in the eighth before Glaus delivered the bases-clearing hit. Had the Devil Ray relievers been able to keep their two-run deficit intact, Donnelly would have pitched the ninth instead of Callaway.
But Scioscia said Donnelly would not automatically be the go-to guy in save situations in Percival’s absence. The manager said matchups and freshness would determine who gets the call, meaning that anyone from Ben Weber to Francisco Rodriguez could assume the closer’s role on any given day.
“Donnelly’s stepped up great,” Scioscia said of the reliever with a 0.36 earned-run average, “but what if he comes in and gets two outs in the eighth and pitches the ninth? Who’s going to close the next day? Is it going to be Donnelly again? Maybe not.
“Right now I don’t know if we really have to slot one guy there. If a guy can step up and start to throw the ball well, we’ll consider how we look at the roles in the bullpen.”
General Manager Bill Stoneman said he expects a bullpen that has excelled with a 7-4 record and 2.71 ERA to survive the loss of Percival.
“If there’s any one area where we can afford a hit, as much as we’re going to miss a guy like Troy Percival, where we’ve got guys who are capable and we can absorb it, it’s probably the bullpen,” Stoneman said.