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Oliver provides bullpen stability

This is how it was supposed to work.

Darren Oliver enters in the sixth inning and wriggles out of a tight situation, preserving a lead for the Angels’ starter with 1 2/3 scoreless innings.

Jose Arredondo follows with a 1-2-3 eighth inning and Brian Fuentes closes things out with a perfect ninth, striking out two batters.

“That’s kind of how you want to draw it up,” Fuentes said Saturday afternoon, a day after the Angels’ bullpen combined for 3 2/3 shutout innings against the Kansas City Royals at Angel Stadium.

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Far too often this season, the Angels’ relievers have needed their own bailout. Before Saturday’s game against the Royals, the bullpen had been scored upon in 19 of 27 appearances and posted a 1-8 record and a major league-worst 7.19 earned-run average.

But pitching coach Mike Butcher said the return of Oliver this week from a strained left triceps portends better results for the bullpen as a whole.

“That was the biggest boost to our bullpen right there,” Butcher said of the veteran left-hander. “We got one of our guys back and he’s a big piece of the puzzle.”

Arredondo and Fuentes had each pitched three consecutive scoreless outings before Saturday, with Fuentes attributing his success to recapturing the form he showed last season as the Colorado Rockies’ closer.

“I wasn’t throwing enough strikes and the quality of my strikes wasn’t very good,” he said. “I had to get better, so I watched some film and tried to look back and when I was going really good last year and tried to make those adjustments.”

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Flip side

Recent trends have been more discouraging for relievers Justin Speier, who was ejected Wednesday after a disastrous outing in which he gave up five runs in two innings, and Scot Shields, whose left knee required an MRI exam because of recurring tendinitis.

Though the results were not immediately available, Manager Mike Scioscia said Shields was available Saturday.

For the first time in their careers as Angels, Speier and Shields are pitching without the security of having record-setting closer Francisco Rodriguez behind them.

“We’ve been pretty stable here for the last several years where it’s been pretty much the same guys,” Butcher said. “Now guys have to step up and take advantage of opportunities and come out of their comfort zone a little bit.”

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Short hops

Ervin Santana gave up three hits and two runs in five innings during a rehabilitation start for triple-A Salt Lake, striking out four and walking one. The right-hander, who is recovering from a sprained right elbow, threw 50 of his 79 pitches for strikes. He could rejoin the Angels’ rotation as soon as this week. . . . Dustin Moseley, on the disabled list because of tightness in his right forearm, will pitch two innings in an extended spring training game Monday in Tempe, Ariz. . . . Speier presented Oliver with a white cake with dozens of red Ks to commemorate Oliver’s 1,000th strikeout, the previous night against Kansas City. “Good cake, man,” Oliver said.

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ben.bolch@latimes.com


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