Back injury sends Angels closer Brian Fuentes to disabled list
Brian Fuentes not pitching since Opening Day didn’t raise many eyebrows because the Angels haven’t exactly had a ton of late leads to protect while starting the season 2-6, but apparently a back injury is also to blame. Fuentes has been placed on the disabled list with a strained back, but because the move is retroactive to April 6 he’s eligible to return next Wednesday. No word yet on whether such a quick recovery is expected, but for however long he’s sidelined ninth-inning duties will go to Fernando Rodney. Signed this offseason to serve as Fuentes’ primary setup man, Rodney actually led baseball in save percentage last season by converting 37-of-38 chances for the Tigers. With a 4.40 ERA and 61/41 K/BB ratio in 75.2 innings Rodney wasn’t anywhere near as good as his save percentage would suggest and he has a career ERA of 4.35, but as a short-term closer fill-in he’s certainly capable. Fuentes showed some significant signs of decline last season, particularly in the second half, and an interesting aspect of his unexpected trip to the DL is that it guarantees the Angels won’t be on the hook for his $9 million salary in 2011. They have a team option on him that vests with 55 games finished this season, which is a total Fuentes barely topped in 2009 and now has zero chance of cracking this year. Rodney is signed through next season, so this may be the first step to his taking over the job full time.