Remember that kid who came up last year with that mid-90s fastball and that devastating split-finger fastball?
The kid who was originally drafted as a shortstop but was converted to a pitcher because of his remarkable arm strength despite being only 6’0″ and weighing 175 pounds?
The kid who appeared in 52 games last year, compiled a record of 10-2, and posted a microscopic ERA of 1.62?
The kid who struck out 55 hitters in 61 innings, while holding opposing hitters to a mere .190 average?
The kid who appeared in 3 games against the Red Sox in the 2008 ALDS, and closed the door on them without allowing a run each time?
Well, he’s 25-year-old Jose Arredondo, who electrified the Angels in ’08 with brilliant outing after brilliant outing.
This year has been a different story. In 24 1/3 innings this year, Arredondo has given up 4 more earned runs than he gave up in all of the 61 innings he pitched in last year (15 earned runs in ’09, 11 in ’08).
His ERA ballooned to 5.55. He had a record of 1-3.
“He just wasn’t in sync with his delivery,” Mike Scioscia put it.
All signs pointed to a demotion, and that’s exactly what happened.
Arredondo was sent down to AAA Salt Lake on June 9th while also dealing with an injury in his throwing arm which struck similarities to the injury that Ervin Santana suffered before the start of the ’09 season.
Some are calling it the proverbial “sophomore slump”.
Others are saying that the loss of a mentor may have triggered some old demons that held Arredondo back while in the minor leagues.
This mentor was Preston Gomez, a man who had been working in the Angels organization for 27 years.
When coming up through the minors, people just knew that Arredondo had a major league-caliber arm, but also had a big-time temper that at times, hindered his development.
In 2006 while in single-A ball, Arredondo and his catcher fought in the dugout after mixing up calls.
In 2007 in AA ball, Arredondo got into an altercation with a teammate who tried to cool down his rage in the clubhouse.
This prompted Mike Scioscia to call in Arredondo and have Gomez “drop the hammer on him” as pitching coach Mike Butcher put it.
The turnaround was remarkable, just look at his 2008 season statistics for proof.
But in March of 2008 before the regular season started, Gomez was hit by a truck at a gas station, and never fully recovered, eventually passing away at the age of 85 in January 0f 2009.
You may noticed the black diamond patch with the name “Preston” sewn in white that the Angels have on their jerseys, in memory of the man who spent nearly 3 decades with the organization.
“I love that guy. He taught my everything,” Arredondo said of Gomez. “He was all over me, trying to make me better.”
It’s tough to truly judge the effect that Gomez’s passing had on Arredondo, but clearly something has not been right.
But since his demotion to AAA, Arredondo has appeared in 11 games, while posting a 2.19 ERA for the Bees. And in a year where the Angels bullpen has been rocky, as well as feeling the absence of an 8th inning guy that can bridge the gap to get to Brian Fuentes in the 9th, Arredondo may do what he did last year… make lots of noise down the stretch after being called up to the Halos’ big league squad.
It isn’t too clear when he may be called up, but he’s been making a case to Mike Scioscia to call him up in the near future.
As of yesterday, in his previous 3 outings, Arredondo has gone 3 2/3 innings, giving up only 2 hits, while striking out 4 batters and walking none.
Only time will tell when Arredondo will be ready to pitch back in the big leagues, but when he comes back, let’s not forget the type of pitcher he can be. He will be an instant bullpen bolsterer, and hopefully he can work his way into being a Scot Shields-like reliever (as in bridging the gap from the 8th to 9th inning, not the recently erratic Scot Shields, of course… who wants that?) for the Angels, being a guy the Mike Scioscia can be comfortable giving the ball to in the 8th inning in close games.
But could he possibly crumble twice in two stints for the Angels this season after relatively no meltdowns on the mound last year?
In my honest opinion, no way, Jose.