The Los Angeles Angels have been known the past few years for having a difficult time winning games in April. Last week, they started to shake that stigma, going 4-2 and pushing their record to .500. However, the Halos just cannot seem to get over the hump. They have dropped two of the last three, and are once again racking up more losses than wins in April. The offense and starting pitching for the Angels has been pretty good so far, but the bullpen has surfaced as a major cause for concern. If LA wants to break .500 for the first time in over a year, the boys out of the pen are going to have to make some adjustments in a hurry.
Angel fans have not had much consistency to root for coming from the bullpen the last few years. Relief pitching for LA has become a revolving door, with new faces popping up daily. The team has brought in veterans to stabilize a young core. However, most of the veterans are no longer with the team because they were either traded or did not perform up to expectations. Several guys have moved up through the system, with few being able to earn a place with the big club.
Some of those guys worked out last year despite the Angels disappointing season. Dane De La Rosa emerged as a legitimate piece out of the bullpen for LA. However, this year he started out on the DL, and was only activated for one game before going back to the minors. Kevin Jepsen was a homegrown pitcher that struggled last year, but has such potential with his strong arm that he too kept a seat out in the pen. Joe Smith joined the Angels this season, and along with Ernesto Frieri, make up the back end. However, both guys have been roughed up at least once this season. It seems like every night the Angels go to the pen with a lead, and end up giving it away in the late innings.
To be fair, the fault for the Angels slow start cannot be blamed solely on the bullpen. The Halos have been in four extra-inning games in the last week, forcing them to shuffle players back and forth from Triple-A just to have fresh arms available. These long games have also forced guys to pitch more than they usually would, and it has caused them to breakdown. Smith has pitched in five of the last six games, which is probably why he let the A’s work him over so badly on Tuesday night. The offense has been scoring runs late, pulling even and providing some free baseball for hardcore fans. Yet they cannot seem to push through and win. The bats have gone silent in extras, and the Halos pitching has eventually cracked under the work and the pressure. The lone bright spot in extras against the A’s was Chris Ianetta, who hit a homerun to dead-center field to win Wednesday night’s game after 12 innings and over four hours of intense battle. Ianetta batted .500 in the series against Oakland.
There are still plenty of games left to be played, and Mike Scioscia will certainly get things back on track. Plenty of uncertainty still surrounds an Angel’s bullpen who has yet to find their identity. However, the quality arms are there, and the veteran leadership already exists. They just need to get their motor running.
Commentary by Chris Chisam
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the Los Angeles Angels