Is this the end of Frieri’s closing days? …

The Angels are closing in on a one-year agreement with Ryan Madson.

And if the deal does indeed get finalized (it can happen as early as Tuesday), you have to figure it’s so that Madson eventually becomes the closer. Recovery from Tommy John surgery may not have him ready by Opening Day, and he’ll probably need a tune-up before resuming the ninth inning (see: Nathan, Joe in 2011). But part of the appeal for Madson to sign this early, and take a low-base, high-incentive salary, is to close on a contending team. And surely the Angels sold him on that.

That would move Ernesto Frieri to the eighth inning, one year after being one of baseball’s biggest surprises.

Frieri was basically unhittable shortly after coming over from the Padres in early May, finishing the year with a 2.32 ERA, a .96 WHIP, 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings and 23 saves in 26 chances. But Madson was one of the game’s best late-inning relievers from 2008-11, posting a 2.86 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP while averaging 68 innings, 68 strikeouts and 18 walks per season. He has the better track record, is less prone to walks and went 32-for-34 in saves with the Phillies in 2011 (giving up only two homers despite pitching out of Citizens Bank Park).

So, that probably means Frieri is the setup man, with Kevin Jepsen in the seventh, Scott Downs as a floater and the likes of Nick Maronde, Jordan Walden, etc. filling out the ‘pen (though the offseason is still very young). Here’s what Jerry Dipoto told me early in the offseason about Frieri and his plans for the ninth. Appropriate on a day like today, methinks …

“We didn’t acquire Ernie with the idea that he was going to step in as our closer. We acquired him with the idea that he was going to help us get the last nine outs and he earned being the closer. That wasn’t the design. Obviously, if our staff remained unchanged, then he has a very good chance to be that guy again. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. Ernie had a fabulous year. It’s very easy to lose track with the two emotional losses versus Texas and Kansas City down towards the end how good this guy was all year. It was phenomenal how big an impact he made on our season and on our team. One thing I’m certain of is that Ernesto in 2012 was a huge advantage to us and we have every expectation that he’s going to be just as high an impact in 2013. But like the question I answered a year ago, we’ll go into the offseason with the idea that Ernie is our ninth-inning guy, and we’re going to try to craft a group in that bullpen that works, and however most effectively we can get those last nine outs, we’ll get them.” 


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