Baseball / Sports

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Jason Vargas throws in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., on Friday, June 27, 2014. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/MCT)

Angels lose to Royals, trade struggling Ernesto Frieri for struggling Jason Grilli

KANSAS CITY -- The Angels need help for their bullpen. On Friday, they acquired a guy who was an All-Star closer last season.

Whether the Angels actually got any help for their bullpen remains to be seen.

The Angels swapped one demoted closer for another, sending Ernesto Frieri to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jason Grilli.

Of the 26 major league pitchers with at least 10 saves, Frieri has the highest earned-run average at 6.39, and Grilli the highest walks plus hits per inning pitched at 1.62, meaning he puts at least two men on base in most of the innings he pitches.

"We are trading a struggling closer for a struggling closer with the idea that a change of scenery will help both," said Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto.

Dipoto said he is not finished working on trades to improve the bullpen. The Angels would like to add a veteran late-inning reliever, ideally a left-handed one, and they might still need a closer.

"This is a step," Dipoto said. "I'd be surprised if this is the only step."

Though the Angels would like Grilli to establish himself as their closer, they are making him no promises.

"Whether Jason Grilli returns to the ninth inning will have to be determined by Jason Grilli," Dipoto said.

There is no significant salary difference. Grilli, 38, is owed $2 million for the balance of the season and can be a free agent thereafter. Frieri, 27, is owed $1.9 million.

Frieri is not eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season, but his salary could jump past $5 million next season if he can recover his form.

Frieri saved 70 games for the Angels over the last three seasons, but he was removed from the closer role four times. In his last appearance with the Angels, he was asked to pitch the ninth inning with a 6-1 lead Thursday. He loaded the bases, forcing the team to rush Joe Smith into the game, and ultimately gave up three runs.

Grilli, who is expected to join the Angels on Saturday, will try to fortify a bullpen that has been reduced to two reliable late-game options -- Smith and rookie Mike Morin.

The Angels' relievers are tied for the American League lead in blown saves. They have given up the second-most home runs of any AL relief corps, and their 4.38 ERA ranks 11th among the 15 teams.

"We need the group that is going to hold leads for us," said Manager Mike Scioscia.

Grilli was a career middle reliever until last year, when the Pirates traded Joel Hanrahan and made Grilli their closer. In his only season as a full-time closer, he posted a 2.70 ERA with 33 saves, and a career-best WHIP of 1.06.

Grilli was the fourth overall pick in the 1997 draft, selected between Troy Glaus and Vernon Wells.


KEY MOMENT: Mike Trout hit a really, really long home run. The Royals estimated the distance at 445 feet. ESPN had it at 489 feet -- the longest in the major leagues this season, the longest ever hit by Angels player, and the longest ever hit at Kauffman Stadium -- based on an estimate of how far the ball would have traveled had it not landed in a fountain. Trout said he has not been invited to compete in the All-Star Home Run Derby. Would he compete if invited? "I don't know," he said.

AT THE PLATE: C.J. Cron had the first two-homer game of his career. In 18 at-bats since the Angels decided to keep the rookie and release veteran designated hitter Raul Ibanez, Cron has four home runs in 18 at-bats. Ibanez had three home runs in 166 at-bats.

ON THE MOUND: Matt Shoemaker (5-2) had the briefest and roughest of his nine major league starts, giving up eight runs and 11 hits in four innings. "When he had chances to put guys away, he missed his spots badly," Manager Mike Scioscia said. The Royals sent 11 men to the plate in a seven-run third inning, capped by a grand slam from Omar Infante. David Carpenter, making his first appearance this season, pitched three shutout innings in relief of Shoemaker.

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at

Distributed by MCT Information Services



blog comments powered by Disqus