SEATTLE -- At the start of the season, the bullpen was anything but consistent for the Angels. As far as strengths and weaknesses went for the ballclub, it was definitely more of the latter.
But as the year progresses, things are changing. The emergence of Ernesto Frieri as a potential closer has solidified the back end of the Angels bullpen. Left-hander Scott Downs continues to throw well, and displaced closer Jordan Walden has turned around a poor start to the season. With three relievers that can occupy the closer role, manager Mike Scioscia maintains that he wants to play the matchups.
In the past 10 games, the bullpen has given up just three earned runs in 30 1/3 innings, good for a 0.89 ERA.
"The depth issue of having, not only Ernesto Frieri, but Scott Downs remaining pitching well, and Jordan Walden reemerging, that's critical to what we need and what we want to do," Scioscia said. "You have to keep that back end functional, and there's no doubt our depth in the back end is the best it's been all year. It's going to win us games.
"Scott's a guy we'd like to get in the ninth inning, but if we would need him earlier, then we have some other options. Especially with the two right-handed arms that we feel can pitch behind Scott if they had to. But we'll look at things leading up, what the game flow is and how we want to set it up. I don't know if we have to sit down and every day say, 'This guy is going to close right now.' "
Frieri has solidified the bullpen since he came to the Angels from the Padres in a May 3 trade, turning heads with a historic start. Entering Wednesday, he had fanned 19 batters, the most strikeouts ever by an Angels pitcher in his first 8 2/3 innings with the team. He also had not given up a hit.
The one knock Frieri has is losing command, as evidenced by his six walks in his short time with the Angels. But Scioscia isn't too bothered with the free passes.
"Like most guys, most hard throwers, occasionally there's going to be a walk in his game," Scioscia said. "But I think he's managed it very well, for not only what we've seen here, but for his career. His walks are a little high, but if you look at his numbers, his arm plays big time."
Versatile Romine back in the Majors
SEATTLE -- The Angels designated right-hander David Pauley for assignment Thursday and recalled infielder Andrew Romine from Triple-A Salt Lake. Pauley was 0-1 with a 4.82 ERA in four relief appearances this season.
"We were able to reset from 13 pitchers -- we didn't need them -- down to 12," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Gives us some more options, a little bit more depth on the bench right now.
"[Romine] can play three infield positions, he runs well and he's been swinging the bat very well, too. If there's a role for him, he'll get a chance."
Romine was hitting .312 with two home runs and 17 RBIs for Salt Lake, also having swiped 14 bases. This is the first time Romine has joined the big league club this year, having appeared in five games last season for the Angels.
Trout returns to scene of monster game
SEATTLE -- If Mike Trout is in a mini-slump, Safeco Field may be the perfect place for him to turn it around. The 20-year-old outfielder has just one hit in his last three games, but history shows the Angels' matchup with the Mariners on Thursday has come at a perfect time.
It may have just been one good series, but Trout was 3-for-10 lifetime at Safeco -- known as a pitchers' park -- with two of those hits being home runs, both in the same five-RBI game last Aug. 30.
"Just got to still work gap-to-gap and get on base," said Trout, who also added that nothing major stood out from his last time in Seattle. "Home runs to me are mistakes, Just trying to put the ball on the ground and put some pressure on the defense. Anything in the gap, definitely trying to go three. That's always been the plan, just be aggressive on the basepaths and just go with that."
For what it's worth, though, Angels manager Mike Scioscia doesn't think Trout's recent struggles are anything to be worried about.
"He hit a couple balls hard in the Oakland series," Scioscia said. "Not everybody's going to do everything on every day, and Mike's still having good at-bats. He'll be fine."
Angels starters have not allowed more than three earned runs in eight of the last nine games. Over the last six games, the starting staff has a 2.14 ERA. Additionally, it has the lowest ERA in the American League this season, at 3.42.
As the Angels head into a four-game series against the Mariners, Peter Bourjos isn't too concerned with the notion that the park is generally more catered toward pitchers.
"I think definitely it is just because of the weather," he said. "I think it's a little cooler and the balls hang up in the outfield. But I think if you have a good approach, it's not going to matter -- you hit your line drives and your homers are going to go out."