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MLB Opening Day 2016: Angels' pen full of familiar faces

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Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

With reliever Al Alburquerque optioned to AAA to start the season, very little mystery remains as to who will comprise the Angels' bullpen once the club takes the field on April 4. Led once again by trusted veterans Huston Street and Joe Smith, the remaining cast of characters are names we should know all too well:

Player Spring IP Spring ERA Spring SO/W
Huston Street 6.0 0.00 4.00
Joe Smith 7.0 5.14 2.50
Fernando Salas 8.0 2.25 0.75
Cory Rasmus 11.0 2.45 3.50
Mike Morin 8.0 0.00 7.00
Jose Alvarez 7.1 3.68 6.00
Cam Bedrosian 10.2 4.22 5.67
Greg Mahle 11.0 1.64 2.67

The back-end of the pen should remain relatively low-stress under the trusted care of Street and Smith. It is what follows that inspires less confidence. Salas has always been a middle relief, medium-leverage guy in Mike Scioscia's pens, though to start the year he appears to line up as his 7th inning man, concerning given his proclivity to the long ball. The good news is that role has been fairly fluid for Scioscia the last few seasons, so Mike Morin or Cory Rasmus could certainly take charge of that crucial late-inning role if their solid springs translate to the regular season. The former has already held that position during his rookie campaign, while the latter seems more likely to be slotted as a long-relief specialist.

Lefty Jose Alvarez was used in long relief last year but could pull double-duty as the lefty specialist depending on who wins out in the battle for the final slot in the pen. Cam Bedrosian has been frustrating for Angel fans thus far in his young career. He has nasty stuff and an impressive minor league resume but seemingly gets the yips under the big lights of a major league stadium. His performance this spring has done little to squash those concerns, as his powerful arm has struck out a whopping 17 batters in 10.2 innings, while also giving up 5 earned runs. Small sample size and all, but I think we were all hoping for some more clean innings in this low pressure environment. He has been credited with having better command of his breaking ball, so the process looks good, even if the results haven't quite been there.

The wild card of the group is young lefty Greg Mahle. He came into spring as a long shot to make the roster but has impressed thus far, allowing only two runs across 11 innings. Profiling as a lefty specialist in the majors, he has had a very successful young minor league career, posting a SO/9 of 11.0 and allowing only 0.3 home runs per nine innings pitched. He hasn't quite shown that same dominance this spring, so the final decision will be whether to give Bedrosian another opportunity to show he belongs or go in a more specialized direction with the young lefty.

Bullpens are notoriously volatile and this one will be no exception. The late innings appear to be in good hands and the middle relief corps looks solid. If one of these guys can take a step forward to nail down the 7th inning job, the pen could be a strength for the Angels this season. With the rotation looking iffy these days, the relievers could very well be the X-factor for the Halos' postseason chances.