ANAHEIM -- What will be the Angels' greatest area of need this offseason?Look no further than their American League-leading 22 blown saves. Early in the year, when the Angels began the season 6-14, it was the offense that struggled mightily. And early in the second half, as the team went 14-22, it was the starting rotation that went through woeful struggles. But it's the bullpen that has been the team's biggest weakness throughout the year, and it's those 22 blown saves that may play a big part in why the Angels -- 2 1/2 games back of the second AL Wild Card spot headed into Sunday -- have been so streaky. Consider: The Rangers, 6 1/2 games better in the AL West, only have eight blown saves in 2012 -- tied with the Rays for the lowest in the Junior Circuit. If the Angels would've cut their blown-saves total in half, they could have been in the driver's seat for a division title. "At times, we've struggled to hold leads and we paid a price for that in our record, there's no doubt about it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "When our bullpen was functioning [from mid-May to the All-Star break], you saw us play great baseball and start to make up ground. And when that part stalled, it affected us in a negative way. "At times, our bullpen functioned at a very high level, but it hasn't been with the consistency and the continuity that we needed to put us in a better position right now." Over the offseason, the Angels didn't do a whole lot to address a bullpen that was tied for the AL lead with 25 blown saves in 2011, only signing LaTroy Hawkins to a one-year deal in November and Jason Isringhausen to a Minor League contract during Spring Training. The early May trade for Ernesto Frieri, which may go down as one of the savviest of the season, essentially saved them. But the Angels couldn't swing a deal for a reliever in July or August. And lately, Frieri -- who started off his Angels career with 26 1/3 scoreless innings and 45 strikeouts -- has been very human, blowing a couple of games via the home run. For prolonged success, Frieri must get better command of his slider to offset his lively fastball. "He needs another pitch, and he has another pitch," Scioscia said. "It's just the consistency of it."
Scioscia glad speculation has been put to rest
ANAHEIM -- Angels owner Arte Moreno silenced speculation on Saturday by disclosing in an interview with MLB.com that manager Mike Scioscia and general manager Jerry Dipoto both would be back next season.Scioscia has a contract that runs through 2018. Dipoto is finishing his first season on the job, and there has been media speculation that the two were not seeing eye to eye. "From my end of it," Scioscia said, "I have a commitment here. I love it here. I have a passion for it. I'm happy Arte feels the same way. We need to keep moving forward, getting better. "There have been a lot of things floating around that weren't accurate. Now we can just concentrate on playing baseball." Moreno had assured Scioscia that there was nothing to rumors that he might not be brought back after the Angels have spent another season chasing Texas -- and also Oakland -- in the American League West after adding Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson in an offseason free-agent spree that elevated expectations. "He told me long ago," Scioscia said. "I'm not going to give specifics of our conversations. Some things stalled last year, and we didn't quite get there the year before. We want to be here when this championship comes. "I love it here and want to be part of this. Jerry, John [Carpino, team president] and Arte feel the same way." Scioscia said he hasn't been focused on his situation, that his full attention has been on his team and its effort to reach the postseason. The Angels are 2 1/2 games out of the final AL Wild Card spot with 10 games to play. "A lot of things being portrayed were inaccurate," Scioscia said. "The media can portray things any way you see them. You can portray a conversation as friction or two opinions. "There's not a manager in baseball that doesn't have candid conversations with the general manager. Some people tried to portray my relationship with Jerry as something that's not accurate. "I'm concerned about how my team's playing. I was concerned about not playing to our potential. I was concerned about the starting rotation and bullpen. That's what we focus on. We've been going about our work." Torii Hunter, the clubhouse leader, suggested that Scioscia has been relaxed of late. "He's been having a lot of fun, cracking jokes on the bench," Hunter said. "He's got a contract -- a long contract," Hunter said. "It was a no-brainer [to bring him back]. Why would you fire a guy with seven years left?" LaTroy Hawkins, the 39-year-old reliever playing for his ninth team, doesn't believe the front office or coaching staff should take any blame. "It ain't their fault," he said. "When you come down to it, I wish they would fire players. I've always thought it's weird to have a manager fired because his team didn't do well. It's not like he doesn't have control of his clubhouse. You see guys get fired because he doesn't have control of his clubhouse, it isn't like that. We just picked the wrong time to struggle. It has nothing to do with the staff here, that's for sure. They've given 110 percent -- plus."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia announced his upcoming rotation after Sunday's 4-1 win over the White Sox. Starting the three-game home series against the Mariners, which begins Tuesday, will be Zack Greinke, C.J. Wilson and Dan Haren, respectively. Jered Weaver is slated for Friday's series opener against the Rangers and Ervin Santana would pitch Saturday, on seven days' rest.
Maicer Izturis played well while starting in place of second baseman Howie Kendrick on Friday, hitting a line-drive single, dropping down a sacrifice bunt and playing solid defense. But Scioscia downplayed the possibility of any platoon forming.
"Alberto [Callaspo] has really picked up his game, Erick [Aybar] has playing at an incredibly high level, and Howie, since the second half, has been very consistent," Scioscia said. "I don't think any of those guys are necessarily platoon players. But Izzy is ready at any time to get a spot start or to come off the bench in a game."
Torii Hunter's son, Torii Hunter Jr., has committed to play football and baseball at Notre Dame, the Angels' veteran outfielder announced via his Twitter account. Hunter Jr., one of the nation's top amateur wide receivers, also had offers from Nebraska and Arizona State.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.