ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Angels bullpen, for better or for worse, has been a storyline all season long.
Is there too much attention being paid to the bullpen?
"No," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said in a matter-of-fact tone. "I think bullpen’s a critical component of a winning club. I think it’s evolving and I think some of our stumbles can be attributed to a lot of parts on our club, not just the bullpen.
"As far as too much attention on any bullpen on what you think is a championship-caliber club? No. I think it deserves a lot of attention because that’s where you’re going to get it done by getting those last four to six outs a game."
Getting those last four to six out has, at times, been a struggle for the Angels this season. Entering Friday, the club is tied for first in the American League (Astros, Yankees) with 11 blown saves.
The most recent of those blown saves came Thursday in Cleveland thanks to a Nick Swisher 10th inning walk-off grand slam off of Ernesto Frieri sending the Angels to a heartbreaking 5-3 defeat.
For matters concerning who’s on the mound for the final outs of the game, Scioscia is taking a wait and see approach.
"We’ll see how the game evolves," he said. "Obviously, a lot of attention has been put on Ernie (Frieri) and him getting back to his game. We need him. (We) also have Joe Smith and you have Kevin Jepsen throwing the ball very well. So, I think as the game evolves you’re going to see what your needs are if you were to hold a lead. We’ll see what the matchups are and see how the last four to six outs shape up and we’ll go from there."
Nine of Jepsen’s previous 10 appearances have come in the seventh inning or later. He’s been credited with four holds and one blown save this season. Scioscia feels now is as good a time as any for him to make a mark in the backend of the bullpen.
"I think this is as consistent as we’ve seen him and his stuff is every bit as electric as it’s ever been," Scioscia said of Jepsen. "So there’s no reason why he can’t slide back. We’re using him deep in games now and he’s certainly one of those guys that’s going to help us to hold leads.
"I think he’s the best equipped he’s ever been in his career right now to be able to pitch in the backend. I think he has his command. His stuff is there and he’s really been able to pitch more than just throw the ball 97 miles per hour and he’s becoming a more complete pitcher."