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Norris embracing stint as Angels' closer

MLB.com @mi_guardado

ANAHEIM -- On Saturday, Angels right-hander Bud Norris picked up his first career save after nine seasons in the Majors. Since then, he's racked up three more, with his latest save coming in the Angels' 2-1 win over the A's on Thursday night at Angel Stadium.

Norris worked around a one-out walk to Yonder Alonso to post a clean ninth and seal the Angels' fourth consecutive victory.

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ANAHEIM -- On Saturday, Angels right-hander Bud Norris picked up his first career save after nine seasons in the Majors. Since then, he's racked up three more, with his latest save coming in the Angels' 2-1 win over the A's on Thursday night at Angel Stadium.

Norris worked around a one-out walk to Yonder Alonso to post a clean ninth and seal the Angels' fourth consecutive victory.

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"He's walking around like a closer," manager Mike Scioscia said afterward. "He's filling the role, and he's doing a great job."

Pitching the ninth inning is new territory for Norris, who spent most of his career as a starter, before earning a job in the Angels' bullpen as a non-roster invitee out of Spring Training. The Halos had planned to use him as a multi-inning reliever, but injuries to Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey and Huston Street pushed him toward the back end of their bullpen.

"I think his stuff plays really well for the bullpen," Thursday's starter Ricky Nolasco said. "I know it's a tough transition for him because he was a starter his whole career, but I think he's starting to realize that the bullpen is a really good place for him, especially late in the game like that. He's stepping up. He's throwing hard, harder than he was throwing in the rotation. He looks good."

While Scioscia has shied away from officially naming anyone the Angels' closer, Norris appears to have emerged as his preferred option in save situations. Norris said that he's embracing his stint as the club's interim closer so far.

"I'm really enjoying it," Norris said Thursday before the game. "This bullpen thing has been new, but I'm really taking the ball and running with it. I have a lot of good guys down there teaching me how to stay loose and take care of my body. But at the end of the day, it's just going out there and executing pitches when you get in the moment. The game speeds up, you really hear the crowd in the ninth inning, and that's something that you can really build off of. I'm really enjoying it, and I hope it can help me propel my career for a long time."

Though Norris has handled his first four closing assignments well, it remains to be seen if he'll be given the opportunity to keep saving games once Bedrosian, Bailey and Street return from injury. Bedrosian, who landed on the 10-day disabled list with a right groin strain Saturday, has not resumed throwing, but is "making a lot of progress," according to Scioscia.

Bailey has been out with right shoulder inflammation, but he said he's throwing from 120 feet and is hoping to get on the mound in the next couple of days. Street threw a bullpen session Wednesday, but he's on the 60-day disabled list and won't be eligible to return until June 1.

Worth noting

• Though third baseman Yunel Escobar entered Thursday hitless in his last 19 at-bats, Scioscia said the Angels have no immediate plans to move him out of the leadoff spot.

"Although he's a little bit in a downturn right now, you want him to keep getting his at-bats at the top of your lineup," Scioscia said. "The table-setting aspect is really important for, not only Mike [Trout] and Albert [Pujols], but for Kole [Calhoun]. If you look at the whole lineup, I think he's the best candidate to stay there. He's hit some balls hard, not a lot to show for it in the last 20-30 at-bats."

After going hitless in his first three at-bats on Thursday, Escobar lined a double to left with two out in the eighth to finish 1-for-4.

• The Angels are expecting to activate infielder Luis Valbuena (right hamstring strain) from the disabled list on Tuesday, when they open a three-game series against the Mariners in Seattle.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

Los Angeles Angels, Bud Norris