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Building a Better Bullpen

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Without Scot Shields and Chris Bootcheck at least for the first week of April, the Angels' bullpen is going to welcome some new cast members to the other side of the Left Field fence. Who will they be and what will their roles be?

Obviously, Francisco Rodriguez will be the Closer. Justin Speier will be the 8th inning Set-Up arm in those games where we have a lead in the 8th. He might even come in with an out or two in the 7th if the tight squeeze is making whoever is on the mound sweat.

Returning from last season will be lefty Darren Oliver. Manager Mike Scioscia has no problem using his lone bullpen southpaw against batters of either leaning and this could lead to Oliver being the 7th inning arm, at least at the season's outset. With two men down in the pen, Dustin Moseley becomes a longer shot to make the rotation and is the logical long man

The two spots remaining are that ambiguous territory of games of various odd description: Ones where the long man came in early and has pitched 5 and we are still down by 3; Ones where we tie it up in the 6th but the starter has thrown 100 pitches; Ones where we are up by 7 runs in the 8th and the starter is gassed (let's hope for lots of those!). There are days when the pen is tired and the regular reliables are not going to come in at all.

For those spots it comes down to two of three pitchers: Darren O'Day, Rich Thompson or Jason Bulger. O'Day is a near lock with 14 strikeouts in 15.2 spring innings pitched. Thompson and Bulger are a deep step down from that height, and it is neck and neck with Bulger's 9 Ks in 9 IP perhaps giving him the edge. Look for these two to see action over the next few days to determine the final member of the pen until Shields or Bootcheck get healthy.

The team may decide to carry 7 relievers for the Minnesota trip - just in case - and then bring "up" Nick Adenhart to start Game 5 (the home opener); should this happen, look for Kelvim Escobar to go onto the 60-Day disabled list to ensure that no player will have to get cut from the 40-man roster for all of these technicalities on the roster to be accomplished.