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.
Jordan Walden, looking very much like a young John Lackey, delivered two impressive innings in his Cactus League debut. The 6-foot-5 flamethrower from Texas ended both innings with strikeouts, leaving runners stranded, and finished with three K’s.
The Athletics collected a pair of hits — Eric Chavez’s single through the middle in the first, Chris Carter’s opposite-field double leading off the second — but Walden buckled down when he needed outs. He caught dangerous Jack Cust looking at a third strike to end the first and Rob Bowen went down swinging to finish the second.
With a pitcher as young as Walden, who turned 21 in November, his response to adversity often determines how swiftly he advances through the system. Walden’s stuff is premium: 95-96 mph heat that he holds into the sixth and seventh innings, complemented by developing off-speed stuff. With one out and Carter on third, Walden got Cliff Pennington to roll over on a grounder to Kendry Morales at first, and he shot down Carter at the plate. That was a location pitch, not a bullet, that got Walden out of trouble — a very good sign in his development.
Walden worked at two Class A levels last season, striking out 141 hitters in 156 1/3 innings at Cedar Rapids and Rancho Cucamonga. This guy could be on the fast track to Anaheim if he continues his development this season.