It was a glimpse of things to come for Angels fans: Brian Fuentes, facing lefty-swinging Eric Chavez with two on and one out, and down goes Chavez swinging. When another southpaw swinger, Jack Cust, flied to left, Fuentes was out of a jam he’d created for himself with a pair of one-out singles.
Fuentes is the closer, but we can expect to see him in eighth-inning situations occasionally such as this along the way: two on, tough lefty bats coming up. He sees himself as a closer who doesn’t mind coming in for an out now and then in the eighth — as long as he gets to finish. Fuentes gives Mike Scioscia a feared southpaw specialist. As good as Darren Oliver has been, that’s not who he is. Oliver is just as effective against right-handed hitters as lefties, and he’s a guy you want in games for at least an inning.
The Angels’ bullpen will have a different look this season with what Fuentes provides. Scioscia won’t hesitate to let Scot Shields or Jose Arredondo close games if necessary on occasion –the former domain of K-Rod and K-Rod only.
Two essential components in the back end of the Angels’ bullpen appear to be in mid-season form.
Scot Shields and Jose Arredondo make quick work of the White Sox on Wednesday after starter Matt Palmer was touched up for two runs on five hits in two innings.
Shields struck out Jim Thome during a 1-2-3 third inning, and Arredondo fanned Ben Broussard and Chris Getz in the fourth, getting a fine play in the hole by shortstop Hainley Statia to give him a perfect inning.
Brian Fuentes was given permission to return home to Merced. He will make his Angels debut when he returns. Fuentes and Shields are on Team USA’s World Baseball Classic roster, while Arredondo will represent the Dominican Republic.
Rich Thompson, headed to the Classic to pitch for Australia, continued the run of outs by Angels relievers when he set down the White Sox in order in the fifth.
Few, if any, Angels players are as popular with teammates as Maicer Izturis, who might just be the nicest guy on our planet. He’s always in a good mood, always smiling, always optimistic. Even a few days after the surgery to repair a thumb fracture that ended his season prematurely last August, Izzy was upbeat, quietly talking about the possibility of returning for the postseason — and he almost made it.
Izzy was in the middle of an early-morning conversation on Saturday with Chone Figgins, Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar. It was the familiar, good-natured kind of dialogue that passes the time before the players hit the field.
“Look,” Kendrick said, pointing to the nameplate above Izturis’ locker with the No. 13. “Maicer has a new number this year.”
Izturis, ever so softly, mentioned that it holds no superstition for him, that he’s worn No. 13 in the past. He was No. 6 last year. That number has gone to Hainley Statia, who is among a half-dozen quality shortstops in camp. Bobby Abreu will adorn No. 53, with Brian Fuentes taking No. 40, Troy Percival’s old number.
When a visitor mentioned to Izturis that No. 13 has worked out all right for Alex Rodriguez, Figgins shook his head. “No A-Rod talk here,” he said, grinning.
Kendrick mentioned that Izturis packs some wallop for a little guy standing 5-foot-8, recalling how Izzy had homered in consecutive games as the club’s leadoff man last season.
“That won’t happen this year,” Figgins said, having established as his early goal a full 162-game season.
Izturis is sound physically and looking forward to competing with good buddy Aybar for the shortstop job again after they shared it in 2008, with Brandon Wood getting some time there with both players out in September.
Garret Anderson remains a popular topic of clubhouse conversation, players speculating where their former teammate will land. The consensus is that he’ll be a steal for somebody, that he has a lot of life left in his bat.