Purgatory Online

Monday, March 22, 2004

The Pearly Gates beat me to the punch by doing an analysis of how the starting pitchers are faring this spring; go there and read that. And then come back, because that means I get the pleasure of talking about the bullpen, a significantly different beast.

To begin with, Brendan Donnelly remains out of action after having some blood vessels in his nose cauterized to stop constant nosebleeds that were a result of his having been hit in the face with a line drive. Donnelly may or may not be ready for opening day, so that's a bummer. Donnelly has pitched a total of one inning in spring training games, striking out three and giving up a run, so he may need a fair bit of work before he's ready to go.

Frankie Rodriguez, meanwhile, looks ready to go. Rodriguez pitched in a Venezuelan winter league against the wishes of Angels management, which may come back to haunt him in August or so, but at the moment he's reaping the benefits of keeping that arm employed. Frankie's given up a run in eight innings, allowing five hits, walking five, and striking out five. Given the ridiculousness of his slider, his K:BB ratio should improve once he's out of Arizona's very dry air.

Ben Weber is having a decent but unspectacular spring - a 4.26 ERA, 8 hits in 6.1 innings pitched, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts. If Donnelly misses any significant time, Weber and Rodriguez will have to bear the burden of setting up Troy Percival alone.

Scot Shields, the swingman/long reliever, has pitched eight innings, surrendered 13 hits and six earned runs, walked two, and struck out seven. I believe that his high hit/run totals are due to a one-game meltdown, rather than a series of bad appearances.

And Troy Percival...well, with Percy it's always been impossible to tell how he's going to do as a closer by judging from his non-closing appearances. Call it a quirk of statistics, or blame it on a closer mentality, but he's never pitched especially well when a save isn't on the line. This spring, his ERA is right at 6.00 - four earned runs in six innings, seven hits, two walks, four strikeouts. Percival is definitely reaching the point in his career where, statistically, he can be expected to decline, but with Rodriguez seemingly ready to step in, this doesn't worry me too much.

What will be interesting will be to see who the Angels decide to carry in addition to those five. Aaron Sele or Ramon Ortiz? Perhaps initially, but not in the long term. Bobby Jenks is having a terrific spring, but it's pretty much universally recognized that he needs at least another year in the minors before he's ready. Kevin Gregg, however, has been flat-out brilliant, enough to emerge as a dark horse for the fifth starting slot. Gregg's numbers include a 2.53 ERA in 10.2 innings, with two walks and 10 strikeouts. As with all the numbers so far this spring, the sample size is laughably small, but one would think that Gregg has turned heads to the point that the Angels will give him a test run during the regular season.

In other news, I see that, while I was away, Garret Anderson, Bengie Molina, and Jose Guillen returned to action, and Guillen parked another couple of home runs. Guillen's five is one shy of spring training leader David Ortiz, and ties him with such luminaries as J.D. Drew, Todd Helton, and, uh, Scott McClain. Guillen is also hitting .407, which leads the projected starters, and has a 1.000 slugging percentage in 27 at-bats.

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