Rookie relievers step up

The cavalry won't be coming. The Angels failed to pry closer Heath Bell from San Diego before Friday's non-waiver trade deadline, so if they are to win their division and play deep into October, it will have to be with pennant-race and playoff neophytes such as Kevin Jepsen and Jason Bulger playing key bullpen roles.

The rookie right-handers performed admirably in July, Jepsen giving up two earned runs, striking out 14 and walking four in 13 1/3 innings of 13 games for a 1.35 earned-run average, and Bulger giving up three earned runs, striking out 12 and walking six in 14 1/3 innings of 13 games for a 1.88 ERA.

But how will they respond in August and September, when each game seems bigger than the last?

"I don't feel like it's any more pressure," Jepsen said. "We all know we can win with the team we have here. The coaches have faith in the pitching staff, and we feel the same way."

And if the Angels do make the playoffs, where the pressure is even greater? Bring it on, Jepsen said.

"I love the idea of pitching in October," he said. "That's the whole goal. That's what we're here for."

Jepsen, who struggled early in the season because of a back injury, has emerged as possibly the Angels' best eighth-inning option in front of closer Brian Fuentes.

Armed with a 95-mph fastball, a big, overhand curve and a cut-fastball he began throwing about a month ago, Jepsen threw two scoreless innings, striking out three, in the Angels' 11-5, 11-inning win over Minnesota on Friday night.

Bulger has had his share of eighth-inning work and, combined with Jepsen and left-hander Darren Oliver, has helped shore up a bullpen that for several months was the worst in baseball.

"When you look at what the bullpen has done the last 20 games or so, it's been very impressive," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "They've really tightened up some roles and done some things that are important to us."


Greeting Cabrera

Orlando Cabrera has always loved how the Twins play baseball, so much so that some of his flattering comments about Minnesota got him into some hot water with Chicago Manager Ozzie Guillen and some White Sox teammates last season.

So, when Cabrera, who played shortstop for the Angels from 2005 to 2007, joined the Twins on Saturday after being acquired from Oakland on Friday, it seemed a perfect fit.

"I've always admired the way they play," said Cabrera, who hit second in Manager Ron Gardenhire's lineup Saturday night. "They're aggressive on the bases, they play small ball. . . . I like that."

Cabrera may not be the power bat that has a huge impact on the Twins, but he should be a nice complementary player, one who allows Gardenhire to move Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau into the third and fourth spots -- they were batting second and third -- and light-hitting second baseman Alexi Casilla (.169) to the bench.

"He will really feed off what Ron and the Twins do," Scioscia said. "He's aggressive, he's a tough out, he plays great defense, and he's a terrific situational hitter. He has a great baseball mind. He picks things up out there and plays at a very high level.


No perfect storm

Mark Buehrle, who threw a perfect game against Tampa Bay on July 23, is scheduled to start for the White Sox against the New York Yankees today. That's good news for the Angels, who will not face the left-hander during their series in Chicago this week.





When: 11 a.m. PDT.

Where: Metrodome, Minneapolis.

On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 830, 1330.

Pitchers: Jered Weaver vs. Glen Perkins.

Update: Weaver did last week what players trying to break out of lengthy slumps often do -- he cut off much of his hair. "Just trying to change things up," Weaver said. It can't hurt. Weaver has a 7.35 earned-run average and has given up 10 home runs in his last eight starts and seems to have lost some life on his fastball, which has forced him to rely too heavily on his breaking ball and changeup. Is it any coincidence that Weaver's slump came after he threw a season-high 119 pitches in his third complete game of the season, a five-hit shutout of San Diego on June 14? "I have no idea," Weaver said.

-- Mike DiGiovanna

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