Scioscia defends closer use
Fans of the Angels, who have the best record in baseball, are running away with the division and finally have an offense that looks fully capable of winning a World Series, apparently don’t have enough to complain about.
Several actually called the team’s postgame radio show and e-mailed newspapers complaining that Manager Mike Scioscia “padded” Francisco Rodriguez’s statistics by bringing the closer into Tuesday night’s game with a 7-3 lead and two on in the ninth inning.
Rodriguez needed four pitches to strike out Raul Ibanez for his 46th save, moving him to within 11 of Bobby Thigpen’s single-season record of 57 saves, set in 1990. Because the tying run was on deck, it was a save situation.
“I find that to be questioning our integrity,” Scioscia said, a hint of ire in his voice. “Everything we do is what’s best for the team. If the closer is available, why wouldn’t you use him if the situation dictates the game needs to be closed out? Why wouldn’t you?”
With two on, Ibanez, Seattle’s best hitter, at the plate, and cleanup batter Adrian Beltre on deck, Scioscia wanted to give Rodriguez some breathing room in case Ibanez reached base.
“If there’s a save situation and Frankie is available,” Scioscia said, “he’s going to get the ball.”
Rodriguez warmed up in the bottom of the eighth Tuesday, when the Angels led, 4-3. After Garret Anderson’s two-run homer and Juan Rivera’s RBI double made it 7-3 and eliminated the save situation, Rodriguez, looking dejected, went to the bullpen bench.
Rodriguez had a similar reaction Saturday against the Yankees, when he warmed in the eighth after the Angels broke a 3-3 tie but was not needed after the Angels rallied for eight runs in the inning.
“Mentally, you prepare to come in with a one-run lead, and the adrenaline is way different,” Rodriguez said. “You’re ready for the game, then all of a sudden you score some runs, and you have to shut it down. You get upset because you’re so competitive, and you want to come in the game. It’s frustrating, but it’s something you can’t control. As long as we’re winning, I’m fine with it.”
Said Scioscia: “That’s just him mentally unwinding. Francisco is a high-energy guy, he gets himself physically and mentally ready to pitch. Sometimes when it doesn’t work out, he lets some stuff out.”
One player at triple-A Salt Lake who could play a potentially significant bench role in the playoffs is switch-hitter Kendry Morales, who in 69 games is batting .333 with 14 homers and 58 runs batted in.
But there is no hurry to recall Morales by Aug. 31, the date players must be on a big league roster or disabled list to be eligible for the postseason.
Because pitcher Kelvim Escobar, out for the season, is on the 60-day DL, the Angels can use that spot to add someone to the playoff roster, as they did in 2002, when they added Rodriguez even though the reliever wasn’t called up until that September.