Angels' Cody Allen OK with early-season demotion from closer role

Angels' Cody Allen OK with early-season demotion from closer role
Angels pitcher Cody Allen pitches in the ninth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium on Friday. (Victor Decolongon / Getty Images)

Cody Allen was demoted from his closer role this week by Angels manager Brad Ausmus after giving up five runs and six hits — three of them homers — in a four-game span. The right-hander put up little resistance to the surprising early-season move.

“Brad’s job is to put guys in position to help the team win,” Allen said. “I had a rough series against Seattle. I’m working through some things to get back to being the guy I was before that. And there are some guys down there who are throwing the ball very well, Ty Buttrey and Hansel Robles. They give us a better shot to win games or close games out.”

Ausmus said Buttrey, Robles and Luis Garcia will be his ninth-inning options.

“We’re going to go with whoever we think gives us the best chance in a save situation,” Ausmus said. “We’re actually much better as a team when Cody is closing, but right now, we’re going to put him in some lower-leverage situations to try to get back to where he needs to be and get command of his pitches.”

Allen, signed to a one-year, $8.5-million deal, opened the season with five scoreless appearances before hitting his rough patch, in which he walked five and struck out four in 2 1/3 innings. His ERA jumped to 5.40.

Angels' Cody Allen OK with early-season demotion from closer role

Apr 23, 2019 | 10:55 PM

His average fastball velocity (92.2 mph) is down more than two mph from the 94.3 mph he averaged in Cleveland in 2017, and he has bounced several curves in front of the plate.

Allen said his command problems stem from the difficulty he’s had adapting to mechanical adjustments he made this spring with pitching coach Doug White and bullpen coach Andrew Bailey.

“We worked to get over some bad habits that occurred last year,” Allen said. “When you’re making a big change like that, some bumps along the way can happen. Because I haven’t been doing it super long, it’s not like riding a bike.”

Early struggles are not new for Allen, 30. He had an 11.57 ERA in April 2015 and finished with a 2.99 ERA and 34 saves. He had a 6.97 ERA in April 2016 and finished with a 2.51 ERA and 32 saves, and he did not allow a run in 13 2/3 innings of 10 postseason games.

“It’s the life of a back-end guy,” Allen said. “Every run you give up in April and every run you give up in September is magnified. I’ve been here before. It’s not uncharted territory.”

Angels' Cody Allen OK with early-season demotion from closer role

Apr 23, 2019 | 6:55 PM

Shohei Ohtani, in the final phase of his rehabilitation as a hitter from elbow surgery, hit live pitching for the first time Wednesday, taking four at-bats against a right-hander. Ausmus said Ohtani will need “something in the neighborhood of 40 at-bats” before being activated in early May.

“He walked twice, hit a line drive off the end of the bat that might have been a hit and a double to right-center,” Ausmus said. “He looked good. I don’t want to put too much stock in results. It’s the first time he’s stepped in the batter’s box since last September. He didn’t seem to miss a beat.”

Short hops

Third baseman Zack Cozart was scratched from Wednesday’s lineup because of neck stiffness from his head injury suffered Monday . “They’re going to give me another day to try to loosen it up,” he said. “Nothing too alarming, but it’s not quite there.” … Tyler Skaggs (left-ankle sprain) will come off the injured list and start Friday night at Kansas City. … Andrew Heaney (elbow inflammation) threw in the bullpen Wednesday, his first mound session since receiving a cortisone injection

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