Angels’ Jordan Walden loses closing job
CLEVELAND — Now Jordan Walden knows how Fernando Rodney felt last season. An All-Star as a rookie in 2011, Walden lost his job as Angels closer after one blown save in 2012, just as Rodney did last year.
Manager Mike Scioscia announced before Friday night’s game against the Cleveland Indians that veteran left-hander Scott Downs will close, with Walden moving to a seventh- or eighth-inning role “for right now,” Scioscia said.
Walden entered Thursday’s game against Tampa Bay with one out in the ninth inning, the bases empty and the Angels leading by a run. B.J. Upton singled, and Brandon Allen crushed a pinch-hit, two-run home run to give the Rays a 4-3 walk-off victory and extend the Angels’ losing streak to four games.
“Right now, we want to get Jordan some innings where he can work on some things,” Scioscia said. “It should be a quick fix. When Jordan gets his stuff right, it will play in the closer spot, and that’s what we’re working toward.”
Downs, 36, has only 17 saves in 11 big league seasons and has spent just one extended stretch as a closer, when he recorded nine saves for Toronto in the first half of 2009.
But he was the Angels’ most reliable reliever last season, going 6-3 with a 1.34 earned-run average in 60 games, and he had not given up an earned run in seven innings of eight appearances entering Friday.
Walden went 5-5 with a 2.98 ERA and 32 saves last season, but he also led the American League with 10 blown saves.
The 24-year-old right-hander has a 98-mph fastball but has struggled to gain consistent command of his slider and changeup, making it difficult to use those pitches in tight, ninth-inning situations. He has also been in too many hitter’s counts, which has allowed batters to sit on his fastball.
“His stuff is coming out hot, but he needs to control counts and put guys away,” Scioscia said. “At times, Jordan has had problems with that.”
A lack of consistent work hasn’t helped. Walden appeared in only six games through Thursday and didn’t get his first save opportunity until April 20. Thursday’s loss was only his second save opportunity.
Scioscia said Walden was demoted not because he doesn’t have the mentality to close but because he needs to execute his pitches better.
“It’s tough to experiment in the ninth inning of a game,” Scioscia said. “We want to put him in situations where he can still help our bullpen but be able to throw some pitches where the game is not won or lost.”
Reliever Bobby Cassevah, who missed most of spring training because of a sore shoulder, was reinstated from the disabled list and optioned to triple-A Salt Lake on Friday. The right-hander had a 6.14 ERA in eight minor league rehabilitation appearances. … Alberto Callaspo hit second for the first time Friday night, giving the Angels their 18th lineup in 20 games.
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