Angels strip Jordan Walden of closing duties, give job to Scott Downs

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One blown save was all it took for Jordan Walden to lose the Angels’ closer job.

After saving 32 games as a rookie last season Walden didn’t get his first save opportunity until April 20 this year. He converted it, but then coughed up two runs yesterday to blow his second save chance.

And today the Angels announced that he’s been demoted to a seventh- and eighth-inning role with left-hander Scott Downs taking over as closer, although manager Mike Scioscia left open the possibility that the move is temporary.

Scioscia told reporters that Walden “needs to work on things in situations where the game can’t be won or lost on one pitch.”

Walden certainly hasn’t pitched well in the early going, but that seems like a pretty strong reaction to a closer allowing runs in just two of his six outings and it’ll be plenty easy for him to win or lose games on one pitch working a high-leverage setup role too. Of course, pretty strong reactions tend to happen when an expected World Series contender begins the season 6-13 even if Walden took just one of those losses.

Last year right around this time it was Walden who supplanted a struggling Fernando Rodney as the Angels’ closer and the hard-throwing 24-year-old right-hander has a 3.15 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 80 career innings.

Report: Orioles interested in Lance Lynn

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The Orioles singlehandedly kept the rumor mill churning this weekend. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the club is interested in making a play for free agent right-hander Lance Lynn, adding him to a list of potential candidates that also includes free agent righty Alex Cobb. The two are expected to command similar contracts in free agency, but Morosi notes that the Orioles may prefer Cobb based on his familiarity with the AL East.

Lynn, 30, is two years removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Despite missing the 2016 season, he bounced back with a respectable 11-8 record in 33 starts and complemented his efforts with a 3.43 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 7.4 SO/9 over 186 1/3 innings for the 2017 Cardinals. He lost several days with a blister on his pitching hand in early September, but managed to avoid any major injuries and can reasonably be expected to shoulder another heavy workload in 2018.

Lynn may not be the Orioles’ first choice to beef up their starting rotation, but there’s no doubt that he’ll be in high demand as one of very few viable starters on the market this winter. The veteran righty rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Cardinals on Thursday and will likely be seeking a multi-year contract, one that Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch estimates around five years and $100+ million. If the Orioles are willing to bite that bullet, they’ll still need to compensate the Cardinals with their third pick in next year’s draft.