Former Angels ace Bartolo Colon built leg strength by climbing coconut trees as a boy in the Dominican Republic, and former Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero developed strong hands and wrists as a youngster by helping his grandfather pull cows home in the Dominican Republic.
New Angels reliever Ernesto Frieri, acquired from the San Diego Padres on Thursday for two minor leaguers, isn’t sure he’d be in the big leagues today if not for the work he put in as a kid at his grandmother’s tamale stand in Cartagena, Colombia.
“When I was 11 or 12, she’d wake me up at 4 a.m. every day, and I’d grind corn for the tamales,” said Frieri, who was activated before Friday night’s game against the Blue Jays. “When I was 14, I picked up a baseball and threw it, and I was like, 'Wow, I have a good arm.' I’ve never hurt my arm since.”
That arm, combined with a Jered Weaver-like, across-the-body motion, delivers lively 92-mph fastballs that helped Frieri go 3-3 with a 2.33 earned-run average and 137 strikeouts in 108 innings over the last four seasons for the Padres.
Frieri is expected to bolster an Angels bullpen that blew six of its first nine save opportunities this season. Manager Mike Scioscia said Frieri will "pitch later in the game, as opposed to the middle."
To make room on the roster, the Angels optioned right-hander Kevin Jepsen, who had a 10.29 ERA in nine appearances, back to triple-A Salt Lake.
Jepsen regained the velocity of his 97-mph fastball after missing most of 2011 because of right-knee surgery, "but his command and his ability to throw a breaking ball for a strike are things he needs to find," Scioscia said. "He needs to get on a mound and get hitters out."