Is Jordan Walden an Angels Lock?

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Jordan Walden #51 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitches against the Oakland Athletics in the ninth inning during an MLB baseball game at O.co Coliseum on September 14, 2011 in Oakland, California. The Angels won the game 4-1. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Spring Training is a chance to sort out what a team has, what a team needs and what to do to get in between those two positions with the personnel at hand. With the Angels signing of Jason Isringhausen to compete for a bullpen spot with the big league club, the number of available bullpen positions begins to shrink. While Jordan Walden saved the Angels from too much Fernando Rodney last season, he still seemed green at times. Despite a good rookie campaign, could his blown saves relegate him to AAA Salt Lake for tinkering or make him a tempting trade chip in GM Jerry DiPoto's inevitable dumping of Bobby Abreu and his $9 Million salary?

There are three relievers who are guaranteed a payday: Scott Downs, LaTroy Hawkins and Hisanori Takahashi. The Aussie Chopper himself, Rich Thompson, is out of minor league options. If the Angels were to attempt to send Rich to the minor leagues, he would first have to clear waivers. This was successfully done in November with Francisco "Wolverine" Rodriguez, who is now no longer on the Angels 40-Man Roster but is still in their organization as a minor league arm. The biggest "IF" among these four would be Takahashi, who despite making $4.2 million this season is rumored to have been ignored by all 29 other teams as trade bait this winter.

The Angels can send Bobby Cassevah, Kevin Jepsen, Michael Kohn up and down between the big club and the minor leagues all they want this season. Ditto for other pitchers who made appearances last season: Trevor Bell and Garrett Richards are starters anyway and so is Brad Mills, the arm acquired for Jeff Mathis from Toronto. Jerome Williams may have the inside track the fifth spot in the rotation out of Spring if only because like Thompson, our man from Honolulu is out of options as well. The bottom line here is that Walden can be put on the Salt Lake shuttle if need be.

A dominant Spring by Isringhausen and any one of Cassevah, Jepsen or Kohn, along with a serviceable justification to keep Takahashi as an overpaid mop could spell a demotion for last year's Angels closer. Is the Isringhausen signing an indicator that the Dipoto era will be a regular ascertaining of "What Have You Done For Me Lately" to players of all stripes and fastball speeds?

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