Frieri back in the 9th — for one night, at least …

Ernesto FrieriErnesto Frieri pitched in a save situation against the Yankees on Monday night, his first since being demoted from the closer’s role after a nightmarish ninth inning in the nation’s capital on April 23.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the closer again.

Joe Smith was warming up in the bullpen to pitch the ninth, but then he started feeling sick, and then he, well, disgorged his lunch. So Frieri, who started to warm up as Jered Weaver got in trouble in the eighth, got up again, checked into the ninth with a three-run lead and notched a 1-2-3 inning — striking out Jacoby Ellsbury and Mark Teixeira, then getting Brian McCann to line out to end the game.

Asked about the ninth after the 4-1 win, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said: “Ernie’s got to be part of it. Joe Smith’s throwing the ball very well, and Ernie’s going to be a big part of it, for sure.”

The important thing is that Frieri is throwing better. He’s twirled 4 2/3 hit-less innings since his demotion, giving up only one hit by pitch and striking out four batters. On Monday, he used his trademark fastball to record both of his punchouts.

“It’s coming  back,” Frieri said. “I’m just letting it go, stop thinking about painting the strike zone and let the movement of my fastball take care of itself. I felt pretty good today. My fastball had a lot of life, and I’m getting more control with my breaking pitches. I threw a pretty good changeup today, too; elevated my fastball whenever I wanted to. If I can do that, I’m going to be fine.”

Alden

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