Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 5/23/12
OAKLAND, Calif. As Ernesto Frieri buttoned his dress shirt and packed his bag for the flight to Seattle, he couldn't suppress a smile. He waited his entire big-league career for the chance he got Wednesday afternoon, and now that it was over, he looked ready to burst. A save. That's what Frieri wanted when he came to the Angels in a trade with the San Diego Padres this month -- a chance to come into a close game and preserve a lead. "I was so excited," he said at the end of the day. "I waited a long time with the Padres and they never game me a chance. The Angels trusted me a little bit more. I was ready for this." Frieri is not quite the de facto closer for the Angels, but he, Scott Downs and Jordan Walden have become a kind of three-headed closer for a team that has turned a weakness into a strength. Those three each pitched one hitless, scoreless inning in a 3-1, 11-inning win over the Oakland A's. Frieri struck out the side in the final inning for the save, his first in 114 career appearances in the majors. In nine games since the trade, Frieri has worked 8 23 innings without giving up a hit or a run. Incredibly, he has 19 strikeouts. Although the left-handed Downs remains the go-to guy in the ninth inning, manager Mike Scioscia is also inclined to use him in certain matchup situations. Wednesday, he used Downs in the ninth inning to keep the game tied, then went to Walden, who pitched a 1-2-3 10th inning, and finished with Frieri. Frieri struck out Jemile Weeks and Coco Crisp, walked Josh Reddick, then fanned Seth Smith. "We can see some definite roles forming," Scioscia said. "It's great to be able to slide Scotty Downs to wherever we think he's going to be effective, but if you look at what Ernie's meant to our pen and look at Jordan Walden regaining his form, we're much more comfortable with how the game is set up and holding leads with those guys pitching well." Frieri, 26, has been beyond a welcome surprise. The Angels acquired him May 3 in exchange for infielder Alexi Amarista and pitcher Don Roach in the hope he would strengthen a struggling bullpen that had difficulty keeping games close. He's done that and more. "I'm lucky," Frieri said. "I'm lucky that they've given me this opportunity. But this is not about me. This is about helping the team. I'm here, I'm ready to go out there and pitch and help the team win some games." The Angels kept an extra pitcher on the roster after going 13 innings Sunday against the Padres, but as they headed to Seattle for four games against the Mariners, they figured to make a move. It's expected that they'll designate pitcher David Pauley (0-1, 4.82 ERA in four games) for assignment and call up infielder Andrew Romine from Triple-A Salt Lake. That likely move will reduce their bullpen to 12 pitchers, a more manageable number, and give them an extra bench player. Romine, 26, is batting .312 in 40 games for the Bees. Combined, their late-innings trio of Downs, Frieri and Walden has given up just four earned runs in 34 23 innings, a 1.04 ERA and that includes an ineffective early stretch of games by Walden, who lost his closer's role to Downs on April 27. Downs, in fact, is one of just two pitchers in the majors who have worked in 10 or more games without yielding an earned run. Those kinds of numbers give confidence to the Angels' starters. Jered Weaver, who allowed one run in eight innings but left with a no-decision, made that point afterward. "It was only a matter of time before it turned around," he said. "Those guys are great down there. They've been clutch for us, not only the one-inning guys, but Pauley has done a great job for us too when we needed some help after a starter gets knocked out early." Pauley, of course, probably won't be around much longer, but the Angels are moving forward. Their offense remains a troublesome area they've scored three runs or less in five of their past seven games so for now, pitching will have to carry them. "We haven't played to the level we need to or want to, but we're not looking for instant gratification," Scioscia said. "We're looking for the grind. We want to keep pounding, and then, in 30 days, see what the standings say, or 60 days. It's going to be a process. It's not going to be anything where we turn this thing around in a heartbeat." That's been clear from virtually the start of the season. But with their starting staff, and now their bullpen, the Angels remain hopeful.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Le’Veon Bell will return before regular season begins

Report: Aaron Donald has not ruled out skipping all of 2017

Reuben Foster injured same shoulder that scared teams off

Reporter: LeBron's reps ‘will/must lie to protect his image’

Report: Ric Flair’s drinking problem contributed to health issues

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Is Cards’ ‘Rally Cat’ in the midst of a looming custody battle?

Giancarlo Stanton views 61 as the legitimate home run record

Yasiel Puig after walk-off win: ‘I’ll see you in the World Series’

NFL rips NFLPA for ‘shameful’ victim blaming in Elliott case

Report: LeBron, Kyrie were cordial during Miami encounter

Watch Christian McCaffrey juke Luke Kuechly out of his shoes

The 'M! E! S! S! Mess! Mess! Mess!' quiz

Three Up, Three Down: Giancarlo Stanton won't stop hitting homers

NFL shifts blame for Zeke suspension to police and NFLPA

Box Score 8/17: Interleague games bring the fireworks

The 'Forget Calvin, bring back Jerry' quiz

The top 20 left-handed pitchers of all-time

Box Score 8/16: There is no stopping the Dodgers

The '27 up, 27 down' quiz

BIG3 Referee Hotline Bling: Charles Oakley slams the phone — and his opponents — down

The Cardinals have their season back by the unlikeliest of means

The BIG3 in L.A.: The reverse Danny Almonte comes to Staples Center

Box Score 8/15: Stanton's power surge has no end in sight

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

The 'M! E! S! S! Mess! Mess! Mess!' quiz

Three Up, Three Down: Giancarlo Stanton won't stop hitting homers

NFL shifts blame for Zeke suspension to police and NFLPA

The 'Forget Calvin, bring back Jerry' quiz

BIG3 Referee Hotline Bling: Charles Oakley slams the phone — and his opponents — down

The '27 up, 27 down' quiz

The Cardinals have their season back by the unlikeliest of means

The 'For Sale this fall: All of the awards' quiz

The BIG3 in L.A.: The reverse Danny Almonte comes to Staples Center

Getaway Day: It's an all-inclusive Wild Card party

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker