Joe Smith hurt, Ernesto Frieri back as Angels closer

Ernesto Frieri pitched a scoreless ninth inning Monday night to earn the save in the Angels' win over the Yankees.

Kirby Lee

ANAHEIM, Calif. — What was originally said just to be a small stomach ailment for Angels reliever Joe Smith turned out to be slightly more.

Asked why Ernesto Frieri was back in the closer’s role instead of Joe Smith following the Angels’ 4-1 win over the Yankees Monday night, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Smith couldn’t pitch because he "threw up down there."

That part was true, but there’s more to the story.

In addition to giving up his lunch while warming up in the eighth inning, Smith says he experienced tightness in his right side. The ailment, he says, won’t make him available for Game 2 of the Angels’ three-game set with the Yankees Tuesday at 7 p.m. on FOX Sports West.

He says he’s questionable for Wednesday, also.

"It’s just sore," Smith said. "I didn’t feel anything pop or tear or anything like that. I’m not expecting it to be more than a couple days thing."

When it was determined Smith wouldn’t be able to pitch, Frieri was left with minimal time to get himself ready. Frieri threw just eight warmup pitches in the eighth inning before being called in to close out the ninth.

Thankfully for him and the Angels, Frieri warmed up earlier in the night, which allowed him to get loose fairly quickly.

The results worked in the Angels favor.

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"Those eight pitches (were) good enough," Frieri said.

Frieri pitched a clean ninth, striking out two and getting a lineout for the final out of the game to pick up his third save of the season.

The demoted Angels closer was back on the hill in the ninth for a save situation for the first time since he last blew a save on Apr. 23 in the Angels’ 5-4 loss at Washington.

Scioscia said Frieri was "electric" Monday night adding "that was the best stuff we’ve seen from Ernesto this year." The Angels manager, who has yet to commit to Frieri returning to his closer role full time, feels the Angels will be at their best when he regains the closer role on a permanent basis. He’s not alone.

"Our whole goal was to get Ernie back to that point where he is throwing the ninth inning," Smith said. "That’s where we all want him. It’s looking good, so far."

Added Frieri: "(You have to) just wait for you chance and whenever they give it to you, take advantage."