Francisco Rodriguez leads the Angels' bullpen with a 1.91 ERA in 66 innings in 2004. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)
ANAHEIM -- As the Angels continue to win games and serve notice that they'll be a major contender in September, one thing that's easy to forget is how solid their bullpen has been all year.
But as the games become more important, the bullpen work has become more prominent, and the results have been undeniable.
The Angels are leading the American League in bullpen ERA -- 3.44 entering Wednesday
-- for the third straight year, and their four relievers who see the most action in crucial situations -- Scot Shields, Brendan Donnelly, Francisco Rodriguez and Troy Percival -- have a combined ERA of 2.72 with 254 strikeouts in 215 1/3 innings.
"We've been doing it all year," Percival said. "Every bullpen's going to have its ups and downs, but we're continuing to be solid as the year's gone on."
Rodriguez has had the best numbers, with a 1.91 ERA, a .179 batting average against, and 100 strikeouts in 66 innings, making him the reliever with the most strikeouts in the AL and the quickest reliever in Angels history to reach the century mark.
"It's off the charts," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
"It's very impressive," Percival said.
So has been the work of Shields, who is third in the AL for strikeouts by a reliever, with 94 in a bullpen-leading 85 1/3 innings. He has a 2.95 ERA.
Brendan Donnelly / P
Weight: 240 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
And Donnelly, whose season didn't start until mid-June because of various injuries, is regaining the form that made him an All-Star in 2003. Donnelly has a 2.81 ERA, has struck out 35 batters in 25 2/3 innings, and has retired 21 of the 25 first batters he's faced.
Donnelly has allowed two runs over his last 11 outings (11 1/3 innings, 18 strikeouts) and has stranded 14 of 16 inherited runners.
Shields said one of the reasons for the recent tear is that the bullpen finally feels rested after missing parts and having to change roles earlier in the season. He also said the improvement of the starting pitching has helped.
"I think everyone is starting to find their groove," Shields said.
"The starters are going deeper into games on a regular basis, and that's huge because it helps us stay fresh. Also, having Brendan back is big. Now we don't have to really get thrown out there every day. Everyone knows their role."
Jose Molina / C
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Jose has a hose: Backup catcher Jose Molina has started 52 games this year, 14 more than he started in all of 2003, and he's made his presence known on the defensive end by throwing out 19 of 42 (45 percent) base stealers, which ranks first among AL catchers.
But Scioscia, a former All-Star catcher with the Los Angeles Dodgers, said that isn't close to the most important thing Molina brings.
"I think Jose Molina's an outstanding defensive catcher not solely because of his arm," Scioscia said. "It's because of how he calls a game and receives the ball."
Jose Guillen / RF
Weight: 190 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Gaga over Guillen: Scioscia was asked if outfielder Jose Guillen's tremendous statistical season -- .305 batting average, .368 on-base percentage, 26 homers and 98 RBIs entering Wednesday -- has surprised him and he said it hasn't.
"He's always had the potential to do this," Scioscia said.
Scioscia cited the fact that Guillen had a breakout 2003 campaign, the first year he had more than 400 big-league at-bats in a season since his rookie
year of 1997 in Pittsburgh. Guillen hit a combined .311 with 31 homers and 86 RBIs with the Cincinnati Reds and Oakland A's last year.
"It's not surprising when you see what he did last year," Scioscia said. "He wants to play and he gets ready to play. He's motivated and he's dedicated."
Glaus, Washburn updates: Scioscia said Troy Glaus came out of his first rehab game with Single-A Rancho Cucamonga feeling good and was back at it Wednesday night.
Glaus finished 0-for-3 with a walk for Rancho Cucamonga on Wednesday.
He added that starter Jarrod Washburn felt great after Tuesday's 38-pitch simulated game and that everything was set for his bullpen session Thursday and his rehab start with Rancho on Sunday.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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