Closer Brian Fuentes claimed by Twins; Angels claim they haven't given up on 2010
The trade of Brian Fuentes to the Minnesota Twins, who claimed the closer off waivers and agreed to send a player to be named to the Angels for the left-hander, has "surrender" written all over it for the Angels, who are 9 1/2 games behind Texas in the American League West entering Friday night's game against the Baltimore Orioles.
But General Manager Tony Reagins claimed -- with a straight face -- that Friday's deal does not mean the Angels have raised the white flag on 2010.
"Not at all," Reagins said, when asked if the move was a sign the Angels were building toward the 2011 season. "What it means is Fernando Rodney is going to pitch in the ninth inning a lot more regularly."
This was a move many felt the Angels should have made in May, when Fuentes, the soft-throwing left-hander, was struggling and Rodney, who has a 96-mph fastball, was dominating hitters.
But the Angels stuck with Fuentes, who rewarded them with a 20-appearance stretch from June 22 to Aug. 21 in which he allowed one earned run in 20 innings.
And what was Fuentes' reward? He was sent to the Twins, who began Friday with a 3 1/2-game lead over the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central and will use Fuentes as an eighth-inning reliever ahead of closer Matt Capps.
"Wow, it's kind of a whirlwind," said Fuentes, who is 4-1 with a 3.52 earned-run average and 23 saves this season after leading the major leagues with 48 saves in 2009. "I"m trying to take it all in. There's a lot of reflection about when I first signed here, the things we tried to do.
"But I definitely enjoyed my time here. It's a great group of guys. But the business side took over, and they had an opportunity to make both clubs better."
Fuentes, who was often booed when he entered games in Angel Stadium, was asked if he felt appreciated by the fans in Anaheim.
"I don't know," he said. "I felt like I was pitching on the road a lot here. I came in to a lot of boos. But the fans here come out in droves, and they're here to be entertained, and one way or another, they're going through my frustrations and success.
"I feel like I gave them more success than failure, but at the same time, there's no resentment toward them. I came out and put it on the line every time. I came up short a few times, and I'm sure some fans were disappointed."
Rodney, who closed for the Detroit Tigers in 2009, will take over the ninth inning, and Manager Mike Scioscia said hard-throwing right-handers Kevin Jepsen, Francisco Rodriguez and Jordan Walden, who was called up from triple A on Sunday, would take over the seventh- and eighth-inning roles.
"If we didn't have a guy like Fernando Rodney, I think you could make that argument," Scioscia said, when asked if the move was an indication the Angels are looking toward 2011. "But I think our bullpen is going to be as strong as it was. We intend to hold leads. It's going to come down to the offensive side creating and giving our starting pitching some breathing room."
Reagins would not identify the player the Angels acquired in the deal, describing him only as a "prospect with upside."
Photo: Brian Fuentes. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times