Ernesto Frieri is out as the Angels’ closer, Joe Smith is in

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Big changes in Anaheim. Ernesto Frieri, who has spent most of the past three seasons as the Angels’ closer has been relieved of his duties. Mike Scioscia said that Joe Smith will now take over as the team’s closer.

Frieri has been a train wreck in 2014. He has allowed nine runs on fourteen hits in eight and two-thirds innings over ten appearances so far. In his last appearance, on Wednesday, he gave up four runs to blow a three-run lead and the game against the Nationals. Manager Mike Scioscia said that it’s a mechanical problem with Frieri and that, until he can figure out his release point, Frieri will pitch in lower-leverage situations, though likely not in the eighth inning.

Smith has exactly three saves in 450 career big league appearances.

 

Rakuten Golden Eagles sign Jabari Blash

Jabari Blash
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Former Angels outfielder Jabari Blash has signed a one-year deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, the team announced Friday. Per the Japan Times, the deal is said to be worth around $1.06 million. Blash was released from his contract with the Angels at the end of November.

The 29-year-old outfielder has had a rough go of it in the majors, where he failed to duplicate the promising results he delivered in the minors. While he consistently batted above .250 with 20-30 home runs per season at the Double- and Triple-A level, he petered out in back-to-back gigs with the Padres and Angels and slumped toward a .103/.200/.128 finish across 45 PA for Anaheim in 2018.

The hope, of course, is that the environment in NPB will help him get a better handle on his issues at the plate — in a best case scenario, resulting in a full-scale transformation that could make him more marketable to MLB teams in the future. To that end, Blash expects to be utilized as a cleanup batter in the Eagles’ lineup and will focus on assisting the club as they make a run toward the Japan Series.