Justin Speier, the Angels’ veteran right-handed reliever, has been handed his unconditional release to make room on the 25-man roster for Trevor Bell, the 22-year-old right-hander who makes his Major League debut on Wednesday against the Rays.
Speier, signed to a free agent contract with the Angels after the 2006 season, was 4-2 with a 5.18 ERA this season in 41 appearances. He pitched 40 innings, yielding 44 hits and 15 walks while striking out 39 batters. Opponents had a .277 batting average against him.
“It probably caught him off guard,” Angels general manager Tony Reagins said. “It’s emotional. There was nothing but professionalism in the way he took it on short notice. He has sincere passion for this organization, and the feelings are mutual.
“You always hope a player continues his career and gets an opportunity. We know he wants to continue to pitch. He’s going to take a breather.”
Speier, 35, is the son of long-time Major League shortstop Chris Speier, now a coach on manager Dusty Baker’s staff in Cincinnati.
Speier began his Major League career in 1998 after he was taken in the 55th round of the 1995 First-Year Player Draft by the Cubs. He pitched for the Marlins, Braves, Indians, Rockies and Blue Jays before joining the Angels.
He’s 35-33 in his career in 613 Major League appearances.
“We felt from a baseball standpoint this decision at this time was the right decision to make,” Reagins said. “It’s something we’ve talked about for several days. It’s always a difficult decision when you have to go this route.
“From a baseball standpoint, it was something we felt that had to be done to allow us to do some other things.”
Bell gives the Angels two rookie starting pitchers, joining Sean O’Sullivan, with Joe Saunders on the disabled list. Middle relievers Matt Palmer and Shane Loux also are candidates to join the rotation, having had some success in that role.
He has spent his entire professional life with the Angels, but Garret Anderson is ready for a change — and Atlanta looks like a very nice fit for the left fielder with the smooth style and textbook stroke.
Anderson provides quiet leadership and a soothing presence, and Casey Kotchman especially will reap benefits if the deal with the Braves goes down, as expected. Kotch and GA are extremely close. Any difficulties Casey might have had last season making the transition to a new league after the trade for Mark Teixeira in late July will be eased by Anderson’s calm manner and words of wisdom.
The Braves are essentially a young club now, with the exception of Chipper Jones. The Braves have another Anderson, center fielder Josh, who also figures to benefit from Garret’s experience. Just as the Angels did with Bobby Abreu, the Braves will be getting a bargain. Anderson will hit anywhere, in any conditions, and he’s still a quality outfielder.