Angels reliever Jordan Walden's whirlwind weekend takes him to big leagues
Forgive Jordan Walden if his head is spinning a bit Monday morning. By the time he wakes up in Orange County he will have covered some 4,650 air miles on three flights, each landing in a different time zone, in about 2 1/2 days and gotten his first taste of the big leagues.
Such is the life of a professional baseball player. Not that Walden, a hard-throwing reliever who was called up by the Angels on Sunday to replace injured infielder Maicer Izturis on the roster, was complaining.
Two weeks ago, Walden, a 24-year-old right-hander with a 100-mph fastball, was at double-A Arkansas, where he spent most of this season. He was promoted to triple-A Salt Lake on Aug. 4 but spent only three weeks there before being summoned by the Angels.
"It's kind of crazy," Walden said in the team's Target Field clubhouse before Sunday night's game against the Minnesota Twins. "I grew up watching all these players, and now I'm sitting here with them. It's different."
It was a whirlwind of a weekend for Walden, who went 1-1 with a 3.35 earned-run average in 38 games for Arkansas and 0-0 with a 4.05 ERA in six games for Salt Lake.
Salt Lake finished a road trip in Memphis on Friday, and its flight from there to Salt Lake arrived at about 4 a.m. Salt Lake time on Saturday. The Bees had a home game Saturday night, after which Walden was called into the manager's office and informed he would be joining the Angels.
Walden had an 8:30 a.m. flight from Salt Lake to Minneapolis on Sunday morning, and he will fly with the Angels back to Southern California after Sunday night's game.
"I haven't gotten much sleep," Walden said.
Though Jason Bulger and Brian Stokes, who opened the year with the Angels, are both well into rehabilitation assignments with Salt Lake, Manager Mike Scioscia said Walden "has the most upside of the guys we were looking at. He's throwing the ball well now. Hopefully, he can find his comfort level and help us now."
Walden's upside is a fastball that he normally throws in the 98-mph range and has been clocked as high as 102 mph this season. Walden also throws a changeup and a slider, though the slider isn't a pitch he has complete confidence in yet.
Command has been Walden's issue. He has 24 walks and 41 strikeouts in 49 2/3 minor league innings this season.
"My arm feels good, and I can let it go," Walden said. "I'm learning how to pitch this year."
Scioscia said Walden's promotion isn't an indication the Angels, who entered Sunday seven games behind the Texas Rangers in the American League West, have given up on this season and are building for the future.
"We're making moves now that we feel are going to help us now and in the future," Scioscia said. "You can see the impact [center fielder] Peter Bourjos has had. If we feel a guy can help us now, there will be a role for him. We're not looking past today's game. Jordan has the potential to be a dynamic player."
-- Mike DiGiovanna in Minneapolis