06/24/12 9:03 PM ET
Frieri, Downs guide Angels' resurgent bullpen
By Joe McIntyre / MLB.com
While the offense upped its batting average from .245 to .261 since the team's 6-14 start, it's the bullpen that has had the biggest turnaround.
Through the first 32 games, the bullpen was a combined 1-6 with five saves and a 4.70 ERA.
But in 41 games since, the relievers are 7-2 with 12 saves and a 1.86 ERA.
Though the acquisition of late-innings reliever Ernesto Frieri has coincided with much of the bullpen's success (he has 22 consecutive scoreless innings since he came over from the Padres), he hasn't been the only factor.
Frieri and Scott Downs have the best combined ERA of any pair of relievers in the Major Leagues with a minimum of 20 innings pitched per player at 0.19. They have given up just one earned run in 47 1/3 innings.
They combined for 2 1/3 scoreless innings in Sunday's 5-3 win over the Dodgers, with Downs picking up his first win of the season and Frieri earning his ninth save.
And with the success both have had, manager Mike Scioscia doesn't feel the need to commit to one as the sole closer. Though Downs has pitched in the ninth inning just three times in his last 12 appearances, Scioscia said it's still a matchup game with Downs and Frieri late in the game.
"I think that we're going to continue to match up until we get some roles that are definitely concrete," Scioscia said. "The ability to be flexible makes your bullpen better. And if you can match up with Scott or you can match up with Ernie, we can use that to help us."
And it's the consistency of the other relievers that has allowed Scioscia to use Downs and Frieri any way he likes late in the game.
There was a chance that if Jason Isringhausen didn't make the club out of Spring Training, he would have retired, and after pitching well enough to make the team, the righty has been one of the Angels' most consistent men out of the bullpen. He's second on the team in appearances with 27 and has allowed just five earned runs in 26 innings (1.73 ERA).
Combine that with LaTroy Hawkins' 0.66 ERA in 16 appearances, Hisanori Takahashi's ability to get left-handers out and the fact that last year's closer, Jordan Walden, has needed to pitch in a one-run game just twice in the last month, and Scioscia has plenty of options to call upon.
"I think right now we're much more defined than we were to begin the season," Scioscia said. "We have much more depth and I think that depth is letting us move Scott Downs around a little bit, which has helped."
Iannetta throws, inches closer to return to Halos
ANAHEIM -- It has been a long road back for Angels catcher Chris Iannetta, but he's getting closer to returning.
Iannetta injured his wrist after getting hit by a pitch on May 2 against the Twins, the night he caught Jered Weaver's no-hitter, and caught only three games after that before having surgery. He has been on the disabled list since May 9.
He threw before Saturday's game against the Dodgers but will have to be able to execute a 200-foot long-toss before being cleared to throw to bases from behind the plate. Once he's able to do that, the Angels can think about sending him on a rehab assignment.
Williams to throw simulated game on road trip
ANAHEIM -- Starter Jerome Williams, who was in the hospital after passing out from a shortness of breath following his start against the Giants on Monday, will throw a three-inning, simulated game in the bullpen during the Angels' trip to Baltimore this week.
He was placed on the DL on Tuesday after what he said might have been an overreaction to an asthma attack and won't be able to return until July 4. Manager Mike Scioscia said the team is waiting for direction from the team's medical staff, as well as from Williams, to see how to progress with the righty.
In 13 outings (12 starts) this season, Williams has a 4.46 ERA. While he's out, Sunday's starter Garrett Richards has taken his spot in the rotation.
Trout, Torii pack productive punch at top of order
ANAHEIM -- Mike Trout's production isn't just keeping him in the leadoff spot, it's a big part in Torii Hunter remaining in the two-hole as well.
Though Hunter had a day off on Sunday, in his 13 games in the two-hole this season, he's batting .345 with 12 RBIs and 11 runs scored. In 38 starts in any other spot in the lineup this year, Hunter has 16 RBIs and 18 runs scored.
And as long as Trout continues to set the table for Hunter, and Hunter continues to knock him in or move him over, manager Mike Scioscia is going to stick with him there.
"There are some things that [Hunter] is doing that are important to our offense right now," Scioscia said. "What Mike Trout is doing is incredible. The fact that he's getting on base so much and getting in scoring position so much probably lets you keep Torii in the two-hole longer. He's getting RBI opportunities."
In the 13 games that Hunter has played in the two-hole since June 8, Trout has scored 17 runs and stolen 11 bases (compared with 31 runs scored and 13 stolen bases in his first 38 games).
If a better option comes up in the two-hole that gives the Angels better opportunities to score runs, they'll explore it, Scioscia said. But until then, Hunter will continue to bat second.
With a crowd of 43,975 on hand for Sunday's series finale, the Angels set a record this weekend for attendance in a three-game series at 133,035. The previous record was 133,023 in 2007, also in a series against the Dodgers.
Joe McIntyre is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.