Walden, Frieri to close while Downs recovers

Walden, Frieri to close while Downs recovers

Walden, Frieri to close while Downs recovers
MINNEAPOLIS -- Until Scott Downs returns from a bone bruise in his left knee -- he's currently listed as day to day -- it'll be up to Jordan Walden and/or Ernesto Frieri to handle the ninth inning if a save situation presents itself.

For Walden, it would mean a return (temporary as it may be) to the role he was supposed to spend the entire season in, if not for the lacking slider command that got him replaced after surrendering a walk-off homer April 26.

"I'd love to," Walden said of returning to a role where he saved 32 games in 42 chances during his first full season last year. "Right now, I feel like I'm at the point where I was all last year. My fastball's coming out well, everything's good -- my slider's good. I'm just waiting for the opportunity again."

For Frieri, getting a chance to close would mean, as he put it, "A dream come true."

The 26-year-old, acquired in exchange for two Minor Leaguers on Thursday, was essentially lost in the Padres' bullpen the past couple of years. But he pitched in a setup role on Sunday -- and now his role should take on even more importance.

"That's my dream," Frieri said. "My dream is to one day be a closer and to save a game in the Major Leagues. I think that's every reliever's dream -- to be a closer. If that does happen, I think I'd be mentally ready for it. I have confidence in myself, no matter who's up there hitting."

Frieri and Walden are both right-handed, but both are different. Frieri, who has hurled two scoreless innings with the Angels and has a 2.28 ERA in 107 career big league appearances, relies on a moving fastball and a deceptive delivery. Walden, who came into a first-and-third, one-out jam in the eighth on Monday and allowed an inherited runner to score, throws a power fastball and follows it up with a slider he believes is much better now.

How will the new ninth-inning dynamic work -- however long it lasts?

"Jordan hasn't been around that long, but there might be some matchups that would make a little bit more sense if he's against a group of hitters," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Ernesto has the fact that not many guys have faced him in our league, which might give him a bit of an advantage coming in. ... Right now, we're going to be looking at a committee to get those last three, four, five outs that we might need."