The Los Angeles Angels have made great strides this offseason to strengthen what was a terrible bullpen in 2013. Last season saw a bullpen that did have to work a lot and when it did, it wasn’t pretty. The Angels bullpen was fifth in the AL with 27 losses last season. The bullpen was erratic, inexperienced and fatigued. They were third-worst in the AL with 226 earned runs and third in walks allowed.
Now, they weren’t the worst “pen” in the league, so there were some bright spots. Closer Ernesto Frieri finished the season with 37 saves in 41 chances. Rookie Dane De La Rosa was a savior with a 2.86 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP, and became a go-to-guy down the stretch. But depth was an issue with the injuries to Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett.
The Angels went into the offseason with fixing the bullpen being a top priority. They went out and spent $5.25 million a year for three years on 29-year-old reliever Joe Smith. Smith pitched for the Cleveland Indians for the last five seasons and has a 2.42 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over the last three years. When the Angels sent Peter Bourjos to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for David Freese, they also received back a reliever by the name of Fernando Salas.
Salas had 24 saves for the Cardinals in 2011 and is just reaching his prime. Salas is a big, hard-throwing righty and joins De La Rosa, Frieri and Kevin Jepsen as guys who can all bring the heat. If Burnett can be ready for the start of the season, the Angels’ bullpen will look solid on paper.
As for the rest of the AL West, the Texas Rangers, who had a strong bullpen last season, will bring back the same cast of characters except for reliable closer Joe Nathan as he was signed by the Detroit Tigers. In his place will be former closer Neftali Feliz, who is coming off of an injury-riddled season and may still be a question mark.
The Seattle Mariners are bringing back a solid group of arms, but the closer role has been a revolving door for the last few seasons. the Oakland Athletics always find young kids to bring up and fill out their bullpen with, but they went out and traded for Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson to replace former closer Grant Balfour. With Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle leading up to Johnson, the A’s have a solid group also.
If the Angels bullpen can pitch to their past numbers, it will be a much better season than last season. But if the starting pitchers can’t log innings and the bullpen has to work overtime, it could be another long and woeful year for the Halos.