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: Phillies interested in Manny Machado; Orioles have done homework on Phillies’ minor league system

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Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on a contract extension between the two sides. It seems as if Machado will test the open market next offseason.

The Phillies, currently with relatively minuscule obligations for the 2018 season and beyond, are expected to be big players for Machado, as well as other potential free agents like Bryce Harper. In fact, the Phillies may not even want to wait until next offseason, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reports that the club has expressed interest in Machado to the Orioles. In return, the O’s have been doing their homework on the Phillies’ minor league system.

Kubatko notes that the Orioles like, in particular, Phillies prospects Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery. The Phillies may be hesitant to part with either considering they can get Machado for a lot of cash but no prospects next winter. MLB Pipeline rates Sanchez as the Phillies’ best pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall in the system. Kingery is third overall and the top infielder. While the Phillies’ system is among the best in baseball, its notable weakness is pitching, so parting with Sanchez — who throws in the upper 90’s and can hit triple digits — would be a big ask. Kingery is seen as the club’s next second baseman of the future, so much so that the Phillies are shopping Cesar Hernandez at the Winter Meetings.

As usual with rumors during the Winter Meetings, there may be some smoke but no actual fire here. The Orioles are likely to get continued interest in Machado from many teams between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are simply doing their due diligence by seeing what the Phillies and others have to offer for Machado.