For Angels, a closer finally rises

Jordan Walden has emerged as the man in the Angels bullpen. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Gone are the days of Brian Fuentes, whose throwing motion looked like he was throwing paper planes toward home plate. Gone are the days of Fernando Rodney, whose star fizzled almost as soon as he set foot in Anaheim. And gone are the days of searching for the quick-fix solution to Francisco Rodriguez’s departure.

Now, the Angels have Jordan Walden. The cannon-armed Texan, who can throw up to 100-mph heat, is making waves for the Angels and their fans. And the best part is, he didn’t come in a huge free-agent signing or a blockbuster trade. He is a product of the Angels’ very own farm system.

Angels fans were cautiously optimistic when Walden took over for Rodney on April 5. But Friday’s save against the Mets cemented the young hurler as a bona fide shutdown man. Sure, he did walk the first two Mets he faced, but he showed some major league composure when he proceeded to strike out the next three batters to earn the save.

Walden’s last blown save was on May 16 against Oakland. It was his third of the season. In his 11 appearances since that game, he has only allowed two runs, both coming in a save against Minnesota on May 29.

Walden suffered a stretch of adversity from May 4 to May 16, including three blown saves in six appearances. Over that stretch of bumpy baseball, his ERA was a staggering 9.0. Fans were suddenly questioning whether replacing Rodney was actually detrimental to the team. Walden has shown his guts since then, settling down and turning the ninth inning into the Jordan Walden show.

Walden’s latest stretch of great baseball has a lot to do with a surge in strikeouts. Over his last five appearances, he has averaged two strikeouts per inning. Obviously, for a closer, it’s a good indicator you’re doing your job well.

Walden has adjusted well to his new role as closer for Los Angeles, and with years of improvement ahead of him, the ninth inning looks bright for the Angels.

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