New Closer, Move Down + Angels Win!

It will be fun going to the Big A on Friday for the Angels Home Opening Day for all of the obvious reasons, but now I have an additional one. I can’t wait to talk closers with Barbara, whom I doubt I am alone in calling my favorite usher. A diehard Angels fan, Barbara is kind of our den mother in the Right Field Pavilion, smiling, chatting baseball and shaming drunken idiots into behaving themselves as needed to ensure a good game for all. We hashed out all the problems of the bullpen and our closing situation many times over the course of the season and, of course, like armchair managers everywhere, we had all of the answers. And both of us wanted the Angels to just bring Jordan Walden in to close already. I imagine she is as thrilled with today’s news as I am.

That’s right, it’s official. Mike Scioscia told reporters today that Jordan Walden is the Angels closer while Fernando Rodney works out his issues. This is an open ended decision. If Rodney recovers, he might join the regular bullpen or he might resume his closer role. If Walden seizes this opening and runs with it like I believe he can, he may be the Angels closer for the rest of the season. Quite possibly because the 23 year old Walden does not look old enough to convincingly order champagne 😉 – even with the beard – he instead celebrated his new role this evening by retiring the side in the 9th inning to cement the Angels 5 – 3 victory over the Rays. Good show, Jordan. I raise my glass to you.

I am a realist. I know this is a lot of responsibility to put on a 23 year old arm and psyche and I am sure there will be rough outings here and there. But, so far, the kid does extremely well under pressure and between last season, spring training and this week, Rodney was getting to the point where he walked batters every appearance, increasingly with disastrous results. As long as the quality outings are in the majority, we’re significantly ahead of where we were this weekend. If Rodney recovers, the Angels can find any one of a number of uses for him. If he doesn’t, better to eat his check then deal with the blown saves. Seriously.

As for the rest of this evening’s game? (Okay, it was an evening game for us. If we want to actually watch the east coast games, we have to DVR them and watch them when we get home from work.) The bullpen still needs some calming down. Mr. Kohn, please settle down. You are often amazing but enough with giving up the homeruns already. It is anxiety inducing, not to mention letting my geek show just a little too much, to be shouting “Khaaaaaaaaaan!” loudly enough for my neighbors to hear so many days in a week. Other than that, it was a great game. Jered Weaver pitched a good one – 6 strikeouts over seven innings. Three walks though, which is unusual but didn’t cost us too badly in the end. There’s a reason we have phrases like mid-season form. He’s getting there.

Young catcher Hank Conger got the start and his first major league homerun. Howie Kendrick continued his hot bat streak and we’re scoring runs early, something we failed to do most of last season. Four stolen bases, a couple of great fielding plays, oh, and the season is now official – we had one truly terrible umpire call. Maicer Izturis made a diving catch and clearly caught the ball but the second base ump ruled that the ball hit the ground first. It was annoying, but ultimately didn’t cost us anything. In those situations (where it doesn’t cost anything), it’s actually funny to watch Scioscia’s usually impassive face become extremely animated and expressive. My husband and I frequently make humorous suggestions as to what Scioscia and the umpire might be saying to one another. Although, in this case, you could read Scioscia’s lips loud and clear several times.

We need less excitement from the bullpen. We need to start scoring runs in the middle of the game too. We have improved but still need to do better with runners in scoring position. We need to do something about Scott Kazmir. But, hey, we won. We have a fix in place for the closer situation. We have Scott Downs coming off the DL any day now. We’re hitting and we’re working on those other issues. Optimism, returning. What a difference a win makes but, more importantly, what a difference a closer going one, two, three makes.


  1. welikeroywelikeroy

    The Braves are certainly doing it with Kimbrel right now. Last year, Bailey came out of nowhere for the A’s. I’m sure Walden will be okay if he keeps throwing hard, hitting the strike zone and putting pressure on the opposition. When Downs was in Toronto, I liked him more as a left-handed specialist. He seemed to struggle in the closer role. He tends to nibble the corners a lot, and he often doesn’t get that benefit from some MLB umpires.

  2. crzblue2

    Is fun getting back together with our ushers. Hugging and talking to them. It took me a while to make it to my seats in the Top deck after entering thru the field level visiting here and there. Good luck. I’ll be in San Diego for Saturday and Sundays’ game. In the meantime, I will be heading to the vigil prayer that they are having for Bryan Stow at USC Medical building on State street.

  3. blithescribe

    Jeff – Thanks! Yeah, Kaz needs…confidence?…therapy?…to find a new day job?…a souped up Delorean? I’ve got nothin’.
    Jeremy – Light that halo up again! It’s too funny that you tuned in today and Wells was playing center for the day. You’ll get to see him play left at least twice in the next series, which for some odd reason I assume you will be watching closely. You won’t be pulling for us this weekend? Why ever not? 😉
    Ron – Yeah, I am really impressed with our young guys so far and am glad others are noticing too. I heard Walden is predicted to be a great sleeper fantasy pick this season.
    Welikeroy – I think Walden’s going to be something special…although for us, after the last few years, just being effective is being something special as a closer. I wouldn’t want Scott Downs in the closer role, but I am really looking forward to having another reliable arm in the bullpen when he gets off the DL. So far Downs doesn’t make me cringe when he comes in. 🙂
    Emma – Thanks! Have fun in San Diego! Emma, you are a wonderful person to go to the vigil. People with good hearts like you are the real Dodger Blue, true baseball fans.
    — Kristen

  4. suicidespeed

    Hahaha, love the Khan reference! Actually I feel kind of embarrassed that it never occurred to me before you mentioned it! My brother is a Dodgers fan and they have a reliever called Kenley Jansen and we like to say “Good shot, Jansen!” when he gets a strikeout. For those of you not geek enough, Jansen was one of the snowspeeder pilots in Empire.

  5. blithescribe

    Mike – But what if I don’t want to have fun with Rodney? Can’t it be some other team’s turn already? I wanted to go to Tashi Station and pick up some power converters. Mom, she’s sitting on my side. …What can I say? Fraudney tends to bring out my whiney side, LOL.
    Mark – Only if we can call half of the AL East (fill in team name)/Rays hybrids, LOL. In all seriousness, we brought up more guys from our farm system this season than we acquired from the Jays.
    Suicidespeed – Thank you. Your “Good shot, Jansen” is awesome too. My husband and I refer to Erick Aybar as Red 2 so we can say “Good shot, Red 2” when he’s hitting into the gap. Sci-fi geeks rock. 🙂
    — Kristen

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