Since the Los Angeles Angels traded closer Raisel Iglesias to the Atlanta Braves at the deadline earlier this month, they have searched from within to find their 2022 closer. Several players have been trotted out in this role, including Jose Quijada, Aaron Loup, Ryan Tepera, and even Jesse Chavez.
In recent days, it appeared that Quijada and Tepera were running away with the competition and that one of the two would be the team’s closer for the final seven weeks of the regular season. Over their weekend series with the Minnesota Twins, both got opportunities to shine in late innings.
But as Angels interim manager Phil Nevin evaluates the closer situation, he finds himself leaning towards Quijada given the way he’s impressed throughout the season, according to J.P. Hoornstra of The O.C. Register:
“I love the way he’s thrown the ball,” Nevin said of Quijada. “He’s pitched two days in a row so we’ll have to kind of test the waters, see how he is (Monday), but I think you’re going to see him get a lot of those looks for sure.”
Quijada, 26, pitched in both Saturday and Sunday’s wins. In the two appearances, he tossed 2.0 innings and allowed just one walk and no hits with two strikeouts. This signaled a larger trend of what could easily be seen as a breakout campaign for Quijada.
In 25 appearances and 24.1 innings this season, he holds a 2.96 ERA and 1.110 WHIP with 30 strikeouts. His 138 ERA+, 4.8 K-per-nine, 5.2 hits per nine, and 0.4 home runs per nine are all career bests in what is his fourth MLB season.
In baseball, there is no guaranteeing the quality of a reliever from year to year. However, Quijada has shown sustainable success this season with the team’s second lowest rate of inherited runners scoring and a FIP — fielding-independent pitching — that hovers right around his actual ERA.
If he truly gets the remainder of 2022 to be the Angels full-time closer, it could give him the playing time he needs to build rhythm ahead of next season. Bullpen issues have plagued the Angels for years, but a young player experiencing a breakout season can quickly shift a narrative.
Tucker Davidson secures first Angels win
Despite giving up two runs in the first three batters on Sunday afternoon, Tucker Davidson wound up pitching six innings, the final 5.2 of which were scoreless. It was one of the best performances of his career, and it earned him his first win as an Angel.