Baseball / Sports

Angels edge Jays, 4-3

TORONTO--The Angels' 4-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night provided a fascinating laboratory to see just where they stand in their closer situation.

It did not, however, provide any answers.

The Angels had a one-run lead in the eighth, and acting manager Dino Ebel -- pulling the strings while Mike Scioscia is at his daughter's college graduation -- went with Joe Smith.

So, Ernesto Frieri, the former closer who had lost his job, must be the closer again, right?

Not quite. Ebel said that he and pitching coach Mike Butcher had decided before the game, after they learned that Smith's side was no longer bothering him, that he would be the guy to face the top of the Toronto order, including star Jose Bautista.

"We felt Smith would be a good matchup for the top of the order," Ebel said. "That's all we did."

The choice of Smith to face Toronto's best hitters might indicate that he still remains higher up on the bullpen pecking order.

Of course, Smith spoiled all that planning when he gave up a homer � his first of the year � to the first batter he faced, Jose Reyes. Smith got out of the inning, and the Angels retook the lead in the top of the ninth, thanks to Erick Aybar's leadoff triple and a Raul Ibanez sacrifice fly.

Frieri then took the mound for the first time since he gave up a Brian Roberts homer to lose Tuesday night's game against the New York Yankees. It was his first save situation since losing the job to Smith.

This time Frieri easily retired Adam Lind, Dioner Navarro and Colby Rasmus, striking out the last two.

Frieri has retired 19 of his last 21 batters. Smith has been steady all season. That gives Ebel and Scioscia, when he returns Sunday, a choice for the ninth inning.

"I don't know," Frieri said when asked if he knows the situation. "If you are a late inning guy from the bullpen, you have to be ready whenever they call."

Added Smith: "I don't know if we're flip-flopping the ninth or anything like that. Whatever they call us for, that's what we're down there to do."

Santiago out of rotation

Of the three young starters the Angels placed in their rotation, Hector Santiago was the most accomplished of the group, having started more major league games and with more success than either Garrett Richards or Tyler Skaggs.

Santiago, however, is the one who has lost his job after a month.

Santiago, who had been the Angels' No. 3 starter, was moved indefinitely to the bullpen Friday, a decision the club made because of his 0-6 record and 5.19 ERA.

The Angels haven't announced who will get the ball when they need a starter Tuesday in Philadelphia, but pitching coach Mike Butcher said it would be someone from Triple-A Salt Lake City. The most likely candidates are Matt Shoemaker (6.31 ERA, but two runs in seven innings last time out) and Wade LeBlanc (5.35).

Ideally, the Angels would like Santiago to reclaim the spot.

"Hopefully he'll have some time to clear his head and get back on track and do the things we feel that he can do," Butcher said.

Santiago, 26, who came from the Chicago White Sox with a career 3.41 ERA, said he had a feeling a change might be coming.

"Obviously, I didn't want it to happen, but I was looking for something to happen the way it was going," he said.

Santiago has had problems with his command, but he's also admitted on at least two occasions that events caused him to have lapses of concentration. In Seattle, he briefly lost focus after losing the potential third out of an inning when a third strike was dropped, and in New York he was upset by a balk call.

Butcher said "getting control of his emotions" is an issue for Santiago.

"He needs to be a little bit more under control," Butcher said. "The game kind of speeds up on him. He's got to do a better job of slowing the game down and being under control."

Santiago had pitched out of the bullpen and the rotation with the White Sox, so he said he hopes that a return to the bullpen can get him back to the form that made him a successful starter.

"Hopefully this is the key," he said. "Go out and get that relief mentality. Go out and get one inning at a time, get back in there, and hopefully finish the year in the rotation."

Navarro up

Efren Navarro was recalled from Triple-A, taking the roster spot that was vacant after Nick Maronde was optioned after Wednesday's game. Navarro started in left field Friday night, despite playing just 20 games in the outfield in his minor league career. The organization's best defensive first baseman, Navarro also played some left in winter ball.

Navarro, who was hitting .315 at Triple-A, was a good fit because the Angels needed another left-handed bat to counter the losses of Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun and the slump of Raul Ibanez.

Also, Navarro can play right field, which he'll need to do this weekend when Mike Trout gets a day at designated hitter, pushing Collin Cowgill to center.

(c)2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

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