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.
Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the Blue Jays and third baseman Josh Donaldson are tabling extension talks as the two sides weren’t able to build any momentum towards agreement on a new contract.
Donaldson said, “We’re not quite there. That, to me, right now is not the major focus and I’m turning the page.” He added, “I want to play this season and really focus on winning games because, ultimately, our goal is to win a World Series and I don’t want to hinder that at all.” Donaldson also said he expects to hit free agency.
The 32-year-old avoided arbitration with the Blue Jays last month, agreeing on a $23 million salary for the 2018 season. He’s a free agent at season’s end. Last year, the three-time All-Star hit .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs, 78 RBI, and 65 runs scored in 496 plate appearances. Donaldson missed six weeks in the first half with a calf injury, but was able to return and post terrific numbers, so his health — at least that aspect of it — shouldn’t be a concern going into spring training.
If Donaldson does reach free agency, he’ll join a star-studded group that will likely also include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Charlie Blackmon, and A.J. Pollock.