The Bullpen of Perpetual Sorrow has struck once again. That's three blown saves from the Angel relievers, accounting for three of the Angels seven losses. Oh, and Jordan Walden, who led the league in blown saves last season, hasn't even been involved yet.
There is no dubt that the relief corps needs to be fixed, and soon. The only problem is that doing that really isn't possible at the moment. Which sucks. A lot.
As cathartic as it might feel to scream at the front office to make a trade, that just isn't an option. Assuming I am reading my calendar correctly, it is April 18th. That is at least two months early for trade season. Even the most decrepit of teams isn't looking to trade away quality relievers two weeks into the season since they owe it to their fans to at least pretend that they care about winning games. Jerry Dipoto is also already on record as stating that the Angels won't be signing any free agent relievers either, mostly because there are no good free agent relievers, which is a pretty good reason.
That, unfortunately, means the Angels will have to find help from within. In that scenario, Jerry Dipoto will be doing his best Old Mother Hubbard impersonation since there are nothing but bones in his relief pitcher cupboard.
The best the Angels have to offer is Bobby Cassevah. Bobby had a good run late last season, but he has never profiled as a lockdown late-inning type of reliever since he allows a lot of contact and issues too many walks. He does induce a lot of grounders though, so he should help but only so much. Even if he overachieves again, the Angels will still need more reinforcements.
Finding those reinforecements won't be easy though. They already called up David Carpenter, who was their best somewhat big league-ready relief prospect. In fact, he might've been their only such player. Every other reliever at Triple-A is either a retread, not really a prospect or terrible. I suspect Francisco "The Other" Rodriguez would be next in line since he has pitched in the majors before, though he has failed to do anything other than look mediocre in that time.
If not Wolveiriguez, the Angels could take a look at Ryan Brasier who pitched well in the spring and has continued that success at Salt Lake thus far. At age 24, Brasier is still technically a prospect, but he has never appeared in any top 20 or 30 or 50 Angels prospect list I have ever seen. That doesn't mean he can't be useful, but it does strongly suggest that his ceiling is Peter Dinklage-low.
Should desperation truly kick in, the Angels could just pick a Quadruple-A name out of a hat and see if Juan Rincon, Jeremy Berg, Dave Pauley or Eric Hurley can't come up and surprise them. At this point, it is at least worth a shot, no?
What really stinks is that the Angels do have one potential arm in the minors that could come up and have a big impact in relief right away, and that is Garrett Richards. He throws hard and has a good slider, so he could quickly establish himself as a late-inning option. Alas, he probably won't ever be asked to do so since Jerome Williams doesn't look to be long for the rotation. As much as the bullpen needs help, I will always take 180 innings of average starting pitching over 65 innings of good relief pitching.
And if you are thinking that Williams might be an answer in the pen, think again. Jerome made a few relief appearances last season and was simply awful in those games. His problem appears to be that his command declines drastically when he pitches out of the stretch, which is typically what relievers pitch out of 100% of the time. We are dealing with a small sample size though, so that could be a fluke. Even if it is, Williams lacks the repertoire that would make for a high quality reliable relief pitcher.
The only move that seems like it might be worth making is swapping out Hisanori Takahashi for Brad Mills. Taka was OK in 2011, but he has been a greasefire this year. Making matters worse, Mike Scioscia can't seem to help himself when it comes to using Taka, be it as a LOOGY, setup man or long reliever. By replacing him with Mills, who is also a lefty that can pitch in long relief but is actually pitching very well right now, Sosh might be able to avoid another few blown saves simply by not having Takahashi at his disposal. Besides, it isn't like Mills can be much worse than Hisanori even though they are essentially the same pitcher.
So there you have it, a big fat steaming bowl of almost nothing to hold the Angel bullpen over until the trade market opens up in June, which feels like it is seven years away right now.
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And Taka ain't no LOOGY. But the idea of using Richards in the bullpen might not be such a bad one. He could gain some big league exposure while refining his secondary stuff with big-league coaching. I'd rather have him starting in the minors but it's a thought.
Anyway, what's the big deal? It's not like Texas blew up last night and extended their lead over the Angels. Argh! The Rangers are looking exactly the way I expected the Angels to look early on, doubling my discomfort with the situation.
@Rick K. I might be in the minority, but I am very much against Richards in the bullpen. Not only is he probably going to have to jump into the rotation, but it is the exact wrong place for him to work on his secondary pitches. Garrett's biggest flaw right now is that he has yet to refine his third pitch, the changeup. Most relievers only throw two pitches, so his changeup is more likely to whither than get "refined" if he is working in relief, which is obviously bad for his long-term development.