The Los Angeles Angels made a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals in late November that was centered around an exchange of outfielder Peter Bourjos for third baseman David Freese, but what was not given too much attention in that deal is the addition of relief pitcher Fernando Salas.
The 28-year-0ld right-handed pitcher has played all four seasons in the majors with the Cardinals and has been an inconsistent player for the most part. In his first season in 2010, he appeared in 27 games with a 3.52 ERA with 29 strikeouts, 15 walks, one save and one blown save in 30.2 innings pitched.
With more opportunities to pitch in his second season, Salas improved as he had a 2.28 ERA with a 5-6 record, 75 strikeouts, converted 24 out of 30 save opportunities and tacked on six holds in 75.0 innings pitched. But after taking a step forward in 2011, he has struggled for the past two seasons, posting a 4.30 ERA with 1-4 record, 60 strikeouts and 27 walks in 58.2 innings pitched in 2012.
Last season, he missed 33 games with right shoulder irritation that limited his effectiveness on the mound. When he returned, he struggled to dominate as he appeared in just 27 games, pitching 28.0 innings with a 4.50 ERA, 27 hits allowed, 22 strikeouts and two holds.
Although this may appear that Salas is on the downturn rather than the up, the move to the Halos could be the motivation and change of scenery that he needs revitalize his career. When he is pitching on the mound and is in the zone, Salas has proven to be strikeout pitcher and a quality arm out of the bullpen with playoff experience. He has a 3.32 ERA in 16 postseason appearances. Another factor to keep in mind is that he is just 28-years-old, and has time to develop into a better pitcher.
Salas also does not face pressure to come in immediately as a go-to arm in the bullpen as the Halos have acquired relief pitcher Joe Smith and have returning arms such as Kevin Jepsen and Sean Burnett to carry the load early on. So with that said, Salas can come in and pitch with comfort, and find his niche on this Angels team.