That was quick.
Earlier today I wondered if Scott Downs might be an option to replace Fernando Rodney as the Angels’ closer if he came off the disabled list before manager Mike Scioscia was comfortable giving rookie Jordan Walden a shot at the job, but apparently he was already comfortable.
Scioscia announced this afternoon that Rodney has been removed from the closer role until “he gets back in touch with some things” and in the meantime Walden will work the ninth inning.
Even at his best Rodney is a setup-caliber reliever who’s been given several opportunities to be a closer and with his command abandoning him early on this season the switch is justified, albeit much sooner than expected.
Walden impressed in his 16-appearance debut last season, racking up 23 strikeouts in 15 innings thanks to his high-90s fastball and mid-80s slider combination. In fact, at 98.8 miles per hour Walden’s average fastball velocity was the third-highest in all of baseball among pitchers with 10-plus innings in 2010, behind only Aroldis Chapman (99.6 mph) and Joel Zumaya (99.3 mph).
His minor-league track record was surprisingly mediocre even after making the transition from starter to reliever, but Walden has overpowering raw stuff and if the 23-year-old rookie falters in the closer role the Angels can always turn to Downs (or back to Rodney, perhaps) in a couple weeks.
Jon Morosi of MLB Network said yesterday that the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs have been engaged in trade talks involving starting pitcher Justin Verlander and catcher Alex Avila. Morosi also noted that the Los Angeles Dodgers have shown interest in Verlander as well. Whether this is idyl chitchatting of serious dispute is unclear, of course. Everything is unclear in the leadup to the deadline.
The veteran right-hander is carrying a 4.50 with a 120/57 K/BB ratio over 124 innings. Verlander impressed last year, finishing second in AL Cy Young Award balloting, but he has fallen back to Earth in 2017. His velocity remains high, however, and it’s not hard to imagine him going on a solid run in a way that could help a contender. He is owed $56 million over the next two seasons, however, and has a $22 million option that could vest for 2020, so negotiations for him could be tough. If the Tigers want talent back, they’ll have to eat salary.
Verlander got an ovation from a Detroit crowd last night which seemed to sense that, yes, it’s possible he pitched his last game for the Tigers. Given that he has 10/5 rights, allowing him to veto any trade, that decision is ultimately up to him. It’s not hard to imagine him accepting a trade to a contender, however.
We wait see.
The Dodgers beat the Twins last night thanks to a Cody Bellinger three-run homer. But Bellinger was not the only Dodgers rookie who had a notable game. A far more unconventional one is worth mentioning as well.
That rookie is reliever Edward Paredes, who made his big league debut last night. What makes him unconventional: he’s 30. Turns 31 in September, actually. Paredes pitched professionally for 12 years before making it to The Show. Most of that time was in the affiliated minors in the Mariners, Indians, Angels and Dodgers organizations. He spent time in the independent Atlantic League in 2013-15 as well.
Paredes did not do anything heroic last night. It was more of a right place/right time kind of appearance, retiring the side in order with a fly out, line out and a ground out and remaining the pitcher of record while Bellinger hit that three-run homer. That’s enough for a W, though. A W that Paredes waited a lot longer for than most pitchers who notch one in the bigs.