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OC Register: 2019 Angels spring training preview: bullpen

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As the Angels head toward the first workout of spring training on Feb. 13, we are providing breakdowns of how they stand with their roster by position group. Players acquired this winter include the method of their acquisition in parentheses. This week, the bullpen. (Previously: the rotation.)

2018 RECAP

The Angels took a lot of heat last season for the performance of their bullpen, which converted only 57 percent of their save situations. It was one of the worst rates in the majors. That number was misleading, however, because 10 of their 26 blown saves came in the sixth or seventh innings. Also, they still won nine of the 25 games in which they had a blown save. Overall the relievers were about average. Their 3.92 ERA was 13th best in the majors. Their 1.337 WHIP was 15th. The relievers were asked to pitch the fourth-most innings in the majors, which was likely part of the problem. Keynan Middleton had just begun to emerge as a closer before he went down with Tommy John surgery. Otherwise, Blake Parker handled most of the ninth-inning duties, before giving way to midseason acquisitions Hansel Robles and Ty Buttrey down the stretch. Rookie Justin Anderson also showed flashes of late-inning potential. José Álvarez had his best season.


The Angels start the season with an established closer, thanks to the addition of Cody Allen (free agent). Allen had been the Cleveland Indians’ closer for five of his six full seasons, and he’d been outstanding until showing some cracks in 2018. His ERA rose from 2.59 over the previous five years to 4.70 in 2018. General Manager Billy Eppler believes it was something of a small-sample size fluke, combined with a mechanical issue the Angels believe is correctable. With Allen in the ninth, the Angels have a variety of pitchers they can use to get him the ball, starting with Buttrey and Robles. They also have Anderson, and they swapped Álvarez for Luis Garcia (trade with Phillies). Buttrey, Robles, Anderson, Garcia and Middleton, who is expected back around midseason, all can throw in the mid-90s to 100 mph. Cam Bedrosian has lost some velocity in recent years, but he’s also at times looked like a back-end reliever, so he’ll get another chance to see where he fits in the bullpen. The Angels’ only left-handed relief candidate is Williams Jerez, who arrived with Buttrey in last year’s Ian Kinsler trade. They also will have Noé Ramírez back, and he’s out of options. He and Taylor Cole, who has options, could compete for long relief duty.


John Curtiss (trade with Twins) fits the mold of the other high-velocity arms in the Angels bullpen, although he may end up spending time in Triple-A and waiting for an opportunity. Jeremy Rhoades enjoyed a breakthrough season in the minors last year, combining for a 2.54 ERA at Double-A and Triple-A. Jake Jewell also figures to be waiting in the wings at Triple-A, after recovering from surgery resulting from a broken leg suffered covering the plate in his brief stint in the majors.


The Angels don’t have an established lefty in their bullpen and the Giants have two – Will Smith and Tony Watson – available. Reports of the Angels’ talks with the Giants up until now have been exaggerated, but if the Giants become motivated to move either player as spring training nears, perhaps the price might be right for the Angels.

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