Brian Fuentes returns, but is Fernando Rodney closing in on Angels' closer job?
If Brian Fuentes feels his hold on the Angels' closing job is a little tenuous after Fernando Rodney filled in so admirably while Fuentes was on the disabled list, the left-hander was not letting on Wednesday.
Fuentes, sidelined by a muscle strain in the middle of his back, was activated for Wednesday night's game against the Tigers, and Manager Mike Scioscia said he will return as closer. Rodney, who allowed one hit while saving five games in seven days, returned to a setup role.
"He gave the team five lockdown saves," Fuentes said of Rodney. "This gives us one extra arm, and we can bump everyone back an inning. Having an extra arm back there is going to help. It's going to make us stronger. There are a lot of guys capable of closing down there."
Scioscia would not go as far as to say that Fuentes shouldn't lose his job because of injury, but he did imply that Fuentes' performance last season, when he led the major leagues with 48 saves, warranted him retaining his spot.
"Brian did a terrific job for us last year, and our bullpen will be very deep with him, Rodney and [Kevin] Jepsen," Scioscia said. "When you have three innings of deep relief in the bullpen, combined with the length of our starting pitchers, we should have good arms that are able to hold leads on a nightly basis."
Fuentes, however, will have to pitch effectively to continue closing.
"Fernando will get his save opportunties as the season goes on, when Brian is not available," Scioscia said. "We'll monitor this and see where it goes. Each of those outs in the eighth and ninth inning are important."
Rodney, who signed a two-year, $11-million deal with the Angels over the winter, did not complain about his demotion.
"I know when I signed here, this would be my role, to be the setup man for Brian Fuentes," Rodney said. "I'll be the same way. I think the eighth inning is just as important, because you come in with the game on the line, and you have to keep the lead for the closer."
There is a good chance that Rodney will take over as closer next season. Fuentes' contract includes a $9-million option for 2011 that vests if he finishes 55 games, but that seems unlikely because of Fuentes' time on the DL.
-- Mike DiGiovanna