After discussing his bullpen with the media for several minutes, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia grinned at the next question.
“Has there been too much made of the bullpen issue?” one reporter asked before Friday’s game. “No,” Scioscia replied emphatically.
Scioscia’s relief corps certainly is Topic A lately, especially after Thursday when Ernesto Frieri gave up a walk-off grand slam to Nick Swisher to lift the Indians to a 5-3 win in Cleveland.
The Angels bounced back with a 7-3 win over the Texas Rangers on Friday night to open a six-game homestand at Angel Stadium, but not before their relief pitching was tested again.
With the Angels leading, 7-2, in the eighth inning, Cory Rasmus allowed the first two Rangers to reach base. Kevin Jepsen took over and Texas scored another run on Robinson Chirinos’ groundout.
But Jepsen then got pinch-hitter Rougned Odor to hit into a double play to end the threat and Joe Smith pitched a scoreless ninth inning.
Before the game, the Angels made two moves affecting the makeup of their seven-man bullpen.
They sent right-handed reliever Dane De La Rosa to triple-A Salt Lake and called up infielder Grant Green.
Then Scioscia announced that Matt Shoemaker would start Sunday’s game against Texas while Hector Santiago, who is 0-7 in nine starts this season, would move to the bullpen.
In addition, Tyler Skaggs is expected to soon come off the disabled list and rejoin the starting rotation, “so Hector will pitch out of the ‘pen for now and we’ll see when he gets another start,” Scioscia said.
Santiago, now the sole left-hander in the bullpen, has been a starter, a reliever and last month he was sent to the minor leagues before being recalled June 10 to replace Skaggs.
“I’m fine with whatever they want to do,” Santiago said. “I’m used to it. We’ll see what happens.”
Although Frieri gave up the home run to Swisher, it came after the Indians had loaded the bases against the Angels’ rookie reliever Cam Bedrosian.
“Cam’s poised but it doesn’t mean he’s the finished product yet,” Scioscia said. “Every time you struggle there’s a chance to take that half-step backwards and maybe those two steps forward. I think Cam will do that.”
The Angels have split the closing duties between Smith and Frieri, with Jepsen also pitching in late innings.
Frieri has 11 saves, three blown saves — including Thursday’s — and a lofty 5.83 earned-run average.
“Obviously a lot of attention has been put on Ernie and him getting back into his game and we need him,” Scioscia said.
The Angels will “mix and match to get those last three outs,” Scioscia said. “Joe Smith is definitely part of that solution. Kevin Jepsen is part of that solution. Ernie Frieri we need to be part of that solution.”
Meanwhile, right-handed reliever Fernando Salas had an MRI exam on his throwing shoulder Friday and Salas said the scan showed swelling but no major damage.
It was “a little inflammation in the front of the shoulder and they hope I can start throwing Monday,” said Salas, who’s been on the disabled list since June 15.