What to do about the Angels bullpen?

This season so far has been….some sort of ride. A rash of injuries has plagued the Angels, sending a good number of their starting regulars on the DL. A sudden outbreak of injuries opened up a sizeable number of spots for the kids on their way up from the minors to show off their goods out of the bullpen. Take, for instance, Angels 2012 9th round draft pick Michael Roth. This is a kid who has barely logged one season in rookie ball yet he's managed to find himself a spot in the Angels’ bullpen thanks to injuries plaguing the Angels. Then you also have pitchers like the recently recovered Michael Kohn, who showed a healthy amount of promise in his major league debut back in 2010 before being sidelined midway through his 2011 season with Tommy John surgery. Even though Dipoto spent a lot of time and money trying to fix this bullpen it's still quite a ways from becoming stable, especially with Kevin Jepsen and Ryan Madson out on the DL. Having guys with big promise but little to no experience is a crapshoot when trying to make permanent fixes, but you have to think with the number of guys trying to fill a limited number of holes there has to be at least one person capable of rising to occasion.

A lot of the regulars are due to start flooding back into the roster, with Erick Aybar already making his extended spring training debut and Ryan Madson set to throw against live batters. Even Alberto Callaspo will be back soon, but with Luis Jimenez proving to be such a valuable player (and fan favorite) it'll be tough to find a spot for him to come back. Relievers are going to start finding some foots kicking them out the door real fast, but who will be the first ones to go? I originally expected David Carpenter to survive a wee-bit longer on the big league roster, I knew that he wouldn't last very long but I didn't expect him to play himself out of a job so fast. Can you really be surprised though? After his horrible outing against the Texas Rangers where he gave up 4 runs in the 4th inning he was shown the door real fast. On one hand he did come into a crap situation with the bases loaded and the Texas Rangers offense, of all offenses, knocking at his door. One the other hand he showed absolutely no balls in his performance when he displayed his lack of ability to throw strikes in high pressure situations. Carpenter gave up 2 walks, with the bases still loaded, and then proceeded to give up 2 game breaking hits before recording only one out. There’s no place in this bullpen for relievers who lack any real backbone coming into an intense game, and with the way the Angels play nearly every game is an intense game. This season so far has been….some sort of ride. A rash of injuries have plagued the Angels, sending a good number of their starting regulars on the DL. A sudden outbreak of injuries opened up a sizeable number of spots for the kids on their way up from the minors to show off their goods out of the bullpen. Take, for instance, Angels 2012 9th round draft pick Michael Roth. This is a kid who has barely logged one season in rookie ball yet he's managed to find himself a spot in the Angels’ bullpen thanks to injuries plaguing the Angels. Then you also have pitchers like the recently recovered Michael Kohn, who showed a healthy amount of promise in his major league debut back in 2010 before being sidelined midway through his 2011 season with Tommy John surgery. Even though Dipoto spent a lot of time and money trying to fix this bullpen it's still quite a ways from becoming stable, especially with Kevin Jepsen and Ryan Madson out on the DL. Having guys with big promise but little to no experience is a crapshoot when trying to make permanent fixes, but you have to think with the number of guys trying to fill a limited number of holes there has to be at least one person capable of rising to occasion.

A lot of the regulars are due to start flooding back into the roster, with Erick Aybar already making his extended spring training debut and Ryan Madson set to throw against live batters. Even Alberto Callaspo will be back soon, but with Luis Jimenez proving to be such a valuable player (and fan favorite) it'll be tough to find a spot for him to come back. Relievers are going to start finding some foots kicking them out the door real fast, but who will be the first ones to go? I originally expected David Carpenter to survive a wee-bit longer on the big league roster, I knew that he wouldn't last very long but I didn't expect him to play himself out of a job so fast. Can you really be surprised though? After his horrible outing against the Texas Rangers where he gave up 4 runs in the 4th inning he was shown the door real fast. On one hand he did come into a crap situation with the bases loaded and the Texas Rangers offense, of all offenses, knocking at his door. One the other hand he showed absolutely no balls in his performance when he displayed his lack of ability to throw strikes in high pressure situations. Carpenter gave up 2 walks, with the bases still loaded, and then proceeded to give up 2 game breaking hits before recording only one out. There’s no place in this bullpen for relievers who lack any real backbone coming into an intense game, and with the way the Angels play nearly every game is an intense game.

Following David Carpenter was the far FAR more promising Nick Maronde, who has shown to actually be able to handle major league hitters in tight spots. After Maronde made his debut last year many were sold on his ability to pitch at the big league level out of the bullpen, he was just flat-out killer in his 6 innings of work for a kid with his lack of experience. Apparently the management thought so as well, moving from the game plan on having him develop as a starter and letting him work out of the bullpen full time. In his first appearance against the Rangers following Carpenters inept performance Maronde allowed no runs through 1.1 innings of work. In fact, Maronde only threw 22 pitches in his 1.1 innings whereas Carpenter needed 19 to get one out. With Sean Burnett on the backburner due to a minor injury and Scott Downs reduced effectiveness Maronde is in a really strong position to win a spot out of the bullpen full time as a lefty reliever. One of the Angels biggest problems out of the pen is having a strong lefty reliever to pitch the middle innings, but with Maronde's makeup he is very qualified to fill that role; he could even provide more outs than the standard reliever if need be. Maronde is one of the many relievers in this 'pen who can really earn a spot full time.

Then you got guys like Dane De La Rosa, who has still been very good with the Angels bullpen but isn't really much more than a stopgap until the other regulars are healthy again. In 10.1 innings of work De La Rosa has pitched to a clean 2.61 ERA, though his K/BB ratio still leaves a bit to be desired. To be fair I really think De La Rosa deserves the role Kevin Jepsen has been given but has never really earned in my opinion. I find the Kevin Jepsen experiment to be incredibly tiresome, he's just not a reliable reliever to begin with and he doesn't deserve to be pitching in a major role out of the 'pen. Jepsen is one of those back-up guys who you just throw in during one of those "screw it" situations where either you can't really win or you can't really lose (though with Jepsen on the mound that could be debatable). De La Rosa will likely be one of the ones to go after the end of this DL madness even though he's pitched well enough to have time beyond the return of Jepsen and Madson, but I don't see that happen. What I do see happening is Jepsen flaming out like he always does, that’s when De La Rosa or another reliever who has proved equally worthy will be given a solid spot out of the bullpen.

Michael  RothThe only other reliever attempting to win a big role out of the bullpen is Michael Kohn, returning from his surgery from Tommy John that sidelined him for a season. Kohn showed great promise in his debut season, pitching to a sub 3 ERA in 20+ innings. His biggest problem is his ability to spot his pitches, but it isn't a complete Achilles heel like it is to guys like Kevin Jepsen. Despite his relief appearance against Texas blowing up his numbers he's shown enough promise to earn his keep in the bullpen. Unfortunately Dane De La Rosa has already had a big head start in proving his worth as a reliever to the management, to catch up Kohn will need to be nothing short of lights out. Well that might be a little bit much, but he's going to have to outdo the confidence De La Rosa has instilled in the management. Dipoto wouldn't have had De La Rosa come up if he didn't think he could handle it, hell he probably wouldn't have even traded for the guy to begin with if he didn't think he'd be impactful. The fact that he's proved he can be a big time pitcher just overshadows Kohn at this point, though it is still relatively early. Kohn's going to need to find himself in Scioscia's good graces over De La Rosa, he need to find himself in big time spots and he needs to kill it to earn Scioscia's trust. If he can do that it doesn't matter what De La Rosa does, we all know what Scioscia's stubborness can do for a player.

On the other end of the spectrum you have Michael Roth. This is a kid who's barely come out of playing college ball and he's already found himself battling for a major bullpen role and starting game against big time teams like the Texas Rangers. His stats against the Rangers are a bit misleading however, while he did get shelled and give up 5 runs in 3.1 innings you have to look past the final line and look at what he did previously. As a 23 year old pitcher working out of the 'pen being asked to start a major league game can be daunting, mostly for the fact that the arm strength needed to labor through a major league appearance just hasn't built up yet. When you're making your major league starting debut against the Texas Rangers of all teams you bet your ass it's going to be a laborious outing. Roth was absolutely sailing through the first 3 innings without a problem in the world, and that's already so much more than you can expect a relief pitcher to give you. When the 4th inning came and he started unraveling it was no surprise at all, that was bound to happen given his situation as a ballplayer; most of the runs he was charged with were the fault of Carpenter and his inability to get a pitch into the strike zone. While Roth has shown great promise in his 5 innings of work previous to his start against the Rangers I don't know if he can win a spot just based on his youth and need to develop further as a player. Don’t get me wrong, I'm aware that some players just develop supremely through their time in the majors, but with Roth’s youth and inexperience it wouldn't be a shocker to see him get sent down.

The one way Roth can make his keep is his ability to pitch deep as a reliever, especially with the starting staff the Angels have now. He's shown that he can pitch multiple innings no problem, two of his appearance out of the bullpen were 2 inning affairs each. The only real knock on Roth prior to the Rangers game, which I still say he did a great job in, was his other appearance against the Rangers April 22nd in which he made an appearance without getting a single out while giving up 1 earned run. Other than that night Roth has shown great promise as a reliever, especially with his ability to pitch multiple innings if need be, and let me just say that the need for that kind of reliever is strong within this 'pen.

Even though the bullpen has been kind of a mess the past few days it's only because the makeup of this 'pen is a mess with all the injuries. Outside of a couple established relievers there are really no solid roles for most of the relievers in the pen, and the muddying of those roles is what's making the bullpen a vulnerable spot. I really don't think the 'pen will straighten out until Madson arrives, once he shows up then Frieri will give the Angels a more than capable set-up man, and after that it's just a trickle-down effect. I don't see all of these kids I just mentioned sticking around all year, but you can be sure that they all deserve it. Even though it's a mess of relievers right now, it's a mess of talented relievers and that usually isn't a bad thing. Once the kids step it up and the jobs sort themselves out this bullpen will be quite the majestic beast to behold. Until then….it's gotta be all offense all the time or the Angels are straight up toast.

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