Angels closer Brian Fuentes struggles in exhibition debut
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Brian Fuentes was scheduled to pitch one inning Friday against the Colorado Rockies, but the left-hander was pulled from the third inning after retiring only two batters. Fuentes allowed one run and two hits, including a run-scoring double to Miguel Olivo, struck out two and walked one.
"I got my work in," Fuentes said, one of spring training's oldest cliches for a pitcher who gets roughed up in a game that doesn't count. "The ball felt good coming out of my hand, but I could have been more efficient with the strike zone."
Though Fuentes led the major leagues with 48 saves last season, he also blew seven save opportunities and struggled during a second half in which he went 1-3 with a 4.81 earned run average, walked 15 and struck out only 12 in 24 1/3 innings.
Just as concerning was a drop in the velocity of his fastball, which went from the 90-93-mph range to the 87-89-mph range.
Fuentes, who was slowed by back spasms last spring but feels sound this spring, said it was far too early to tell whether his velocity would return, and he wasn't about to put too much stock in Friday's outing.
"I know it's only my first game in four months; I'm not going to put too much weight on this outing," he said. "I'm sure the last outing of the spring will be a tell-tale sign, the ultimate gauge of where I'm at physically."
Manager Mike Scioscia expected Fuentes to have some "rough edges" in his first spring outing, "but it's an important first step for any pitcher, especially Brian, who had a terrific season for us last year. But even he'll admit it wasn't with the stuff he knows he has in him, and that's what we want to get out."
-- Mike DiGiovanna
Photo: Brian Fuentes throws a pitch during spring training on Feb. 19. Credit: Eric Risberg / Associated Press