More than an hour after Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals, a few of the Angels were still sitting in the privacy of the trainers’ room and talking.
Torii Hunter, the team leader, was in there. So were veteran reliever Scott Downs and two of the youngest relievers, Kevin Jepsen and Michael Kohn. Three games into the season and already the Angels have a few things to chew over.
There have been breakdowns in other areas, but one issue has towered over all the rest: letdowns by an untested bullpen.
Kohn blew a 1-1 tie Friday by allowing Kila Ka’aihue’s walk-off home run and Jepsen followed with a more gradual implosion Saturday. He gave up four sharp singles in the eighth inning as the Angels continued to wobble along after their starting pitcher leaves.
The offense hasn’t exactly caught its stride yet, judging by the nine runs it has eked across in three games, but the Angels might have to get used to that. Absent Kendrys Morales' power, this team doesn’t figure to be an offensive bulldozer. If you’re going to rely on starting pitching, these days you’re usually relying on your late-inning relievers, too.
And thus far the bullpen hasn’t looked trustworthy.
Jepsen isn’t a brand name, but he’s a key cog for the Angels. He went into the season as the presumptive eighth-inning guy, but manager Mike Scioscia indicated that job is no longer his sole domain.
In two outings, Jepsen has allowed seven base runners, including five hits and a home run. Walden figures to be the primary setup reliever for now, but that might be a lot to put on the shoulders of a 23-year old with a year’s worth of experience as a reliever.
“Right now, obviously Kevin’s not off to the start we’re looking for from guys who are important to us,” Scioscia said.
Nothing can give a team bad vibes like back-to-back meltdowns in tight games. So, while several players were rushing to the defense of the young relievers, nobody was pretending this slow start to the season was any fun.
“It makes me sick to think of what could have been in that game,” catcher Bobby Wilson said.