ANAHEIM -- Angels closer Ernesto Frieri has essentially been a bullpen savior since arriving in early May. But he's caused heartbreaking losses in each of his last two appearances, prompting a return to a bullpen-by-committee approach for the Angels.
On Friday, one day after Frieri spoiled a Zack Greinke gem by struggling with the home-run ball in a second straight appearance, Angels manager Mike Scioscia announced that he'll "match up more to take a little pressure off a guy whose confidence is not quite where it should be."
Frieri's last two outings have almost been carbon copies.
Against the Royals on Saturday, Greinke pitched eight shutout innings, then left after giving up a one-out single in the ninth with a 2-0 lead. Three pitches later, Frieri had given up a two-run homer to Billy Butler and a solo shot to Salvador Perez for the walk-off loss.
Against the Rangers on Thursday, after Greinke pitched eight innings of one-run ball, Frieri gave up a leadoff single to Michael Young in the ninth, then hung a 2-1 slider to Adrian Beltre that resulted in a two-run homer and an eventual 3-1 defeat.
Now, on any given night, it can be crafty left Scott Downs, or hard-throwing righty Kevin Jepsen, or perhaps Frieri himself, pitching in save situations.
"I think his last couple outings have been just not as crisp, but the back end of the bullpen's fragile," Scioscia said. "[Frieri is] certainly going to get the ball in situations that are going to be important to us, whether he's throwing the last out in the ninth or the first out in the eighth, whatever it might be."
In 49 appearances with the Angels, Frieri has a 2.63 ERA and has gone 19-for-22 in saves.
He hurled 26 1/3 scoreless innings leading up to the All-Star break, striking out 45 batters and quickly establishing himself as the team's ninth-inning man. In the second half, though, the 27-year-old right-hander has given up 15 runs (14 earned) in 21 2/3 innings, including four in the last two games.
The biggest adjustment for Frieri, who hardly pitched in critical situations while buried in the Padres' bullpen the last few years, may be learning how to turn the page on blown saves.
"It's not easy to do that," he said in Spanish. "There aren't many ballplayers that are able to do that. I'm still learning that myself, to play one game at a time so that the bad things that happened before don't affect me today. But it's a process."
Scioscia: No regrets after lifting Greinke
ANAHEIM -- Whether frontline starter Zack Greinke chooses to re-sign with the Angels this offseason remains to be seen. But in their efforts to convince him, here's one thing the Angels can point to: They'll protect him.
In his last two starts, manager Mike Scioscia has opted against having Greinke exceed 109 pitches -- and both times that may have cost the Angels a game, with closer Ernesto Frieri suffering back-to-back ninth-inning meltdowns.
Greinke hardly ever exceeds that pitch count. In 11 starts with the Angels, the 28-year-old has surpassed 110 pitches five times, but has never thrown more than 115. In 49 career starts with the Brewers, he surpassed 115 pitches only three times (116 twice, 118 once).
"I'm very comfortable with the decisions we made in Kansas City and last night," Scioscia said before Friday's game. "Where Zack is in the season, with the mileage that every pitcher has, I don't think it's worth a pitcher's career to try to stretch him in a game that he might or might not get through and win.
"The bottom line is there's a pitch count we're not comfortable with and we're not going to put a guy at risk or his career at risk."
That may not be a stance you take with a pitcher expected to depart via free agency in a couple of weeks. Look no further than the 2008 Brewers, who rode a willing CC Sabathia hard the last few weeks of their playoff push, just before the big left-hander signed with the Yankees the ensuing offseason.
Scioscia maintains that the focus is on winning now, but there's little doubt the Angels see Greinke as more than just a rental.
"We're trying to win last night's game with Greinke or with our bullpen," Scioscia said. "We're out here trying to win tonight's game. You ask any manager about a player with the talent of Zack, if we hope it's long term -- of course we do. Free agency's complicated. You don't know where or what that route is going to be."
Izturis wants to return to Angels, but will be free agent
ANAHEIM -- With the second American League Wild Card spot 4 1/2 games away and 12 games remaining, it sure looks as if the Angels' season is winding down.
Maicer Izturis is starting to think his time may be running out, too.
"I'm not sure if I'll be back here," the veteran infielder and free-agent-to-be said in Spanish on Friday. "They haven't told me anything."
Izturis, few know, is the Angels' longest-tenured player. He arrived here in 2005, after spending his first season with the Montreal Expos, and delayed his free agency in January 2010 by signing a three-year, $10 million extension.
That contract is almost up. Free agency now looms, and the chances of Izturis returning don't seem very favorable.
Shortstop Erick Aybar and second baseman Howie Kendrick were locked up long-term this calendar year. The younger Andrew Romine has been up several times and is capable of filling in at the positions Izturis plays -- second base, third base and shortstop. And Izturis' playing time has dropped considerably, going from 494 plate appearances in 2011 to 294 so far in 2012, despite being mostly healthy.
The offseason will determine Izturis' return, of course, but the 32-year-old infielder is preparing himself for the likely possibility of spending 2013 in a different uniform.
"If I do, I'll keep being the same ballplayer I've always been," said Izturis, sporting a .252/.318/.316. slash line heading into a weekend series against the White Sox. "I'm a team player. It doesn't matter where I go, I'll be the same guy. I've been in this league for [nine] years, and I've always done whatever it takes to help the team.
Let's wait for the season to end. I'm happy with the Angels, and I thank them for everything they've done for me. I hope I can come back. But we'll see."
By going 2-for-3 with his 28th homer and 25th double in Friday's 6-2 win over the White Sox, Mike Trout reached a couple of milestones. He became the third player in Angels history to record 25-plus homers, 25-plus doubles and 25-plus steals in a single season, along with Don Baylor (1977) and Darin Erstad (2000). And he became the fourth rookie in the last 48 years to score 120 runs. The three others were Ichiro Suzuki (2001), Nomar Garciaparra (1997) and Dick Allen ('64).
Angels reserve outfielder Peter Bourjos has been bothered by flu-like symptoms since Wednesday. Bourjos pinch-ran in the sixth inning on Thursday, but was subbed out for Vernon Wells the next half-inning and hasn't started a game since Aug. 5. Bourjos said he's felt "achy, tired, low fever -- exhausted, really." He's feeling better, but is still not 100 percent.
Erick Aybar and Torii Hunter each came into Friday with a .342 batting average in the second half, which is tied for third in the American League.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.