Ten years after the franchise's only championship run, the Angels are being reminded of a key find during that 2002 World Series run.
Right-hander Francisco Rodriguez, then 20 years old, was a September call-up in 2002. He struck out 13 in his first 5 2/3 innings, was added to the post-season roster and quickly became a bullpen weapon deployed by manager Mike Scioscia all the way to the World Series title.
This year's bullpen phenom is right-hander Ernesto Frieri. Since being acquired in a trade with the Padres on May 3, Frieri has been unhittable, striking out 25 and allowing no hits or runs during his first 12 innings as an Angel.
According to Elias, Frieri is the first pitcher in major-league history to make 12 consecutive appearances without allowing a hit to begin his time with a new team.
According to STATS LLC, Frieri is the first pitcher since at least 1921 to have 25 or more strikeouts and no earned runs allowed in his first 12 innings with a new team.
"I remember it vividly and there are some comparisons, the K rate being the most obvious," Angels' general manager Jerry Dipoto said of the comparison between Rodriguez and Frieri.
"But Frankie was doing it with his breaking ball. Ernie is doing it with his fastball."
Dipoto calls Frieri's a "magic fastball" for its ability to miss bats. A deceptive delivery makes the mid-90s fastball even less hittable than the radar gun indicates.
"I've always done that; it's just the way I throw," Frieri said of the way he wraps his right arm around his back hip before whipping the ball toward home plate, making it even more difficult for hitters to pick up.
"They (Padres instructors) tried to change me. They thought I would hurt my arm. But I throw, throw and throw and I've never had a sore arm. I don't want to change until the hitters tell me to change. It works. If I start getting hit around, then maybe I'll change."