Jordan Walden takes over as closer

Updated: April 5, 2011, 9:35 PM ET
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com

It took all of four games for the Los Angeles Angels to make a radical change in their bullpen.

Fernando Rodney was replaced as the team's closer by rookie Jordan Walden, Angels manager Mike Scioscia announced before Tuesday's game in Tampa Bay.

Walden then picked up a save as the Angels beat the Rays 5-3.

"We had a good conversion with Fernando," Scioscia said before the game. "We'll get him out of the back end of the game and try to get him into a game where he can work on that. It's really important getting Fernando back."

The Angels' bullpen blew a lead in the eighth or ninth inning in two of four games of the team's season-opening series in Kansas City. Rodney walked the bases loaded and allowed a two-run double to Wilson Betemit to blow the save in Sunday's 12-9, 13-inning loss.

Scioscia told reporters that Walden would remain the closer as Rodney "gets back in touch with some things" in his delivery. He wouldn't put a timetable on the move.

Walden, 23, has broken the 100-miles-per-hour barrier several times and his fastball averaged 98.8 mph last year, according to fangraphs.com. Walden was not scored on during spring training and had started the season with three scoreless appearances. He had struck out 28 batters in his 17 2/3 major league innings.

Walden became the Angels' fifth closer since Scioscia took over in 2000, following Troy Percival, Francisco Rodriguez, Brian Fuentes and Rodney.

Also, left-hander Scott Downs, on the 15-day disabled list with a broken left big toe, threw a one-inning simulated game before the Angels played Tampa Bay and could pitch in a minor league game this week.

Scioscia said left-hander Scott Kazmir, who gave up five runs in 1 2/3 innings in his first start of the season, will remain in the rotation.

Joel Pineiro, out with right shoulder tightness, is long tossing and could have a bullpen session when the Angels return home this weekend.

Mark Saxon covers the Angels for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.