Frieri gets back in and gets out of tight jam
ANAHEIM – Ernesto Frieri's wait finally ended Sunday.
Before his appearance in Sunday's 4-3 win in which he held the Detroit Tigers scoreless in the ninth inning, he had only faced 23 batters this season and had not appeared in a game since April 14.
As a relief pitcher in his previous four years in the majors, Frieri couldn't predict exactly when he would throw but he knew he would get the ball semi-regularly.
Frieri, who came to the Angels early last season via a trade with San Diego, was thrust into the closer role after the Angels' previous closer, Jordan Walden — who has since been traded to Atlanta — struggled because of injuries.
But in light of the Angels' stumbling April, save opportunities were sparse. Frieri could only watch as his teammates lost 10 of their first 14 games to start the season.
"I like to compete and I like to win," Frieri said Friday. "I've been frustrated. ... The fact that I'm always pitching when we're winning makes it hard. I can't wait anymore. Hopefully we'll get a lead and I have a chance to pitch."
He got his wish Friday but the lead was too vast. Frieri was warming in the bullpen but when Peter Bourjos' triple turned a three-run lead into a five-run cushion, Frieri promptly sat. A nine-run first inning for the Angels on Saturday quelled any chance of a save situation.
Frieri's three outs on Sunday didn't come easy. He surrendered a leadoff single to Omar Infante, then threw out Infante at second base when Austin Jackson attempted a sacrifice bunt.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland came onto the field to dispute the call with second base umpire Gary Darling. Infante appeared to be safe on television replays.
Frieri then struck out Torii Hunter and walked power bats Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder before getting Victor Martinez to fly out. The 33-pitch inning marked his highest pitch total as an Angel.
"Ernie needed to shut down some really tough hitters and he did it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher worked with Frieri in the offseason to vary his fastball-heavy arsenal. Scioscia said Frieri approached the coaching staff with a desire to "change speeds a little better."
He came out of spring training toting a changeup and cut fastball.
"I wanted to try something different," Frieri said. "I have them just in case I need them someday."
When that day comes around again is anybody's guess.
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