Rodney's struggles cast doubt on role
Angels may reconsider closer spot after reliever's issues
ST. PETERSBURG -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia said all the right things when defending Fernando Rodney after Saturday night's 4-3 loss, but Rodney's performance since taking over as the closer indicates that the team may have another issue to address this offseason.
Rodney, who was given the job after Brian Fuentes was traded to the Twins last month, gave up three straight two-out singles in the ninth inning, opening the door for the Rays to come back and win. The right-hander has recorded five saves in 11 appearances since the Angels dealt Fuentes, but he also has three blown saves and a loss with a 6.10 ERA in 10 1/3 innings.
"We have a lot of confidence in Fernando," Scioscia said after the game. "One got away tonight, unfortunately, but we're comfortable with the guys out there to hold leads. It's just not going to happen all the time.
"We talk about command being important to any pitcher, and it's certainly important to Fernando. When he's been in the zone and able to bring all his pitches into a game, he's pitched very well. He's gone long stretches and done a great job for us."
Rodney's September struggles are nothing new for him, as he posted an 8.00 ERA with 23 hits and 14 walks in 18 innings last September. Scioscia said there hasn't been anything to indicate that Rodney is tired, as the life on his fastball and changeup is still as good as it's been all season.
His closer's struggles aside, Scioscia said he is happy with the bullpen depth that has emerged as the season has progressed, and any concerns about who will be closing out games for the Angels in 2011 will have to wait until the offseason.
"Let's wait to get to next year. We're scrapping and clawing to play well right now, and that's where our focus is going to be," Scioscia said. "Those guys -- [Jordan] Walden, [Kevin] Jepsen and Rodney -- are all important to us right now in the back end of our pen, and hopefully we'll settle in and close these games out."
Wood hopes to get moving in right direction
ST. PETERSBURG -- When the season comes to an end, Brandon Wood's statistics will be "ugly" -- something Angels manager Mike Scioscia had no reservations about admitting Sunday.
But Scioscia also stressed that Wood can use this time to make the necessary adjustments at the plate, moving him in the right direction heading into the offseason in the Arizona Fall League and Spring Training next year after batting just .159 with a .183 on-base percentage and .229 slugging percentage in 201 at-bats so far this season.
"I think right now, Brandon's getting an opportunity to put into play some of the adjustments he's made, using the experience of his tough season. If it makes him better, then it's time well spent if he's going to be a better player," Scioscia said. "If that's the case, he's getting a chance now to put into play some of the adjustments he's made, and he'll carry them over into the winter and play some more and see if he's on the right track or not.
"I don't think there's going to be, right now, as much of a statistical analysis moving forward with him for these couple weeks -- more from a scouting aspect, looking to see how his swing is, his bat speed. Is it where it needs to be, is he squaring balls up? There's a lot that Brandon has on his plate right now, and I think it's important for him to take it one step at a time forward."
Wood has occasionally shown flashes of potential, including his game-winning home run Friday night and a tough nine-pitch at-bat in the ninth against Rays reliever Grant Balfour on Saturday, and those are the kind of opportunities that could shape him into a more complete hitter.
"Hopefully he is going to be a tougher out than he was previously. He's worked hard on some concepts. Up until now, he hasn't had the time to apply them in the game," Scioscia said. "It's going to be a small sample. You're not going to look at these next couple weeks and go, 'OK, he's made the adjustments. He's fine.'
"I think for where he is and where he needs to be, this is a nice time slot to apply some things and maybe carry some things into winter ball and Spring Training."
ST. PETERSBURG -- Catcher Mike Napoli was scratched from the starting lineup before Sunday afternoon's game due to right forearm stiffness. Napoli was originally slated to play catcher and bat fifth. Hank Conger replaced Napoli behind the plate and batted seventh, with Howard Kendrick moving into the five hole and Juan Rivera moving from seventh to sixth in the order. ... Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui were back in the lineup for the Angels on Sunday after taking the day off Saturday, with Abreu batting second and playing left field and Matsui as the designated hitter. Manager Mike Scioscia said he was going for "a little deeper look on the offensive side" on Sunday after running out a more defensive-oriented lineup the previous day. The Angels had just four hits against the Rays in Saturday's 4-3 loss. "With [left-hander Scott Kazmir] pitching, his tendency is more fly balls than ground balls, so we can give this look and try to see if we can get a little more offense in the game," Scioscia said.
Adam Berry is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.