Frieri settling back into ninth-inning role

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Ernesto Frieri has regained his closer role after struggling earlier this season.

Ernesto Frieri contributed to the Los Angeles Angels' slow start with his early-season struggles. The righty quickly lost his closer job to Joe Smith after racking up a 9.35 ERA in his first 10 appearances, in which he allowed five home runs and blew two saves.

The one bright spot during that rough patch for Frieri was that he was still striking batters out, whiffing 12 in 8⅔ innings.

Ernesto Frieri
This Season

He’s now settled back into his ninth-inning role, having allowed just four earned runs in 19⅓ innings. In three straight games from June 7 to June 9, Frieri closed each out, allowing just one hit while striking out seven of the 11 batters he faced.

Bringing the heat

Frieri’s fastball velocity sits at 94.5 mph, topping out at 97 mph in recent appearances. Both of those figures are up about a mile per hour from the start of the season. The small uptick has meant wonders to Frieri in the past 19 games, as opponents are hitting just .120 against his fastball. In the beginning of the season, Frieri’s fastball was getting torched at a .355 clip.

In two-strike situations, Frieri turns to the fastball as a kill pitch about two-thirds of the time. Hitters are one for their past 30 when trying to catch up to his fastball in two-strike counts.

Backward splits

One trend that has continued for Frieri this season is that he has been more effective against left-handed hitters (.185 BA) than right-handed hitters (.275 BA). Going back three seasons, the splits are even more severe: .141 versus lefties, .248 versus righties. Among right-handed relievers who have pitched in at least 100 games over that span, the only pitcher who has been tougher on lefties is Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara (.131).