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Around the Horn: Angels eye improved bullpen

Allen looking for bounce-back season as club's new closer
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

Leading up to the start of Spring Training, the Around the Horn series will examine each of the Angels' positional groupings heading into the 2019 season. Here's a look at the bullpen.

ANAHEIM -- The Angels' bullpen was roughly league average in 2018, as it had a 3.92 ERA that ranked 13th in the Majors while also ranking 19th in strikeouts per nine innings.

Leading up to the start of Spring Training, the Around the Horn series will examine each of the Angels' positional groupings heading into the 2019 season. Here's a look at the bullpen.

ANAHEIM -- The Angels' bullpen was roughly league average in 2018, as it had a 3.92 ERA that ranked 13th in the Majors while also ranking 19th in strikeouts per nine innings.

General manager Billy Eppler set out to improve the bullpen this offseason and he added a few intriguing arms, led by veteran closer Cody Allen, who joined the club on a one-year deal worth $8.5 million. The 'pen with rising talents such as Ty Buttrey, Justin Anderson and Hansel Robles, figures to be better in 2019, so here's a look at the current group of relievers.

Who's returning?
The Angels return most of their relievers from 2018, but the club did non-tender Blake Parker, who had a 3.26 ERA and a team-leading 14 saves, while also trading away Jose Alvarez, who had a 2.71 ERA in 63 innings. The Halos will instead count on inexperienced relievers with high upside such as Justin Anderson and Ty Buttrey. Anderson had a 4.07 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings as a rookie, while Buttrey had a 3.31 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings in his first taste of the Majors.

Cam Bedrosian, who posted a 3.80 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 64 innings, also returns as well as Noe Ramirez, who made a career-high 69 appearances and struck out 95 in 83 1/3 innings to go along with a 4.54 ERA. The Angels also claimed Robles from the Mets in midseason and he was solid with his new club -- posting a 2.97 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings.

Video: Eppler optimistic for the Angels' 2019 season

Lefty Williams Jerez had a 6.00 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 15 innings in his first year in the big leagues and he could be counted on later this season. Taylor Cole had a strong rookie campaign with a 2.75 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 36 innings, while inexperienced relievers Jake Jewell and Miguel Almonte also return.

Keynan Middleton is expected to return from Tommy John surgery in midseason and JC Ramirez is on a similar track, but he could be used as a starter once he returns, based on need.

Who's new?
Allen will serve as a closer, but he is coming off a down year with the Indians, as he had a career-worst 4.70 ERA with 11 homers allowed in 70 appearances in 2018. But he struck out 80 batters in 67 innings and he has a career 2.98 ERA while averaging 29 saves per year over the previous five seasons.

The Angels traded Alvarez to the Phillies for hard-throwing right-hander Luis Garcia, who like Allen is looking for a bounce-back year. Garcia had a 6.07 ERA in 59 appearances last season, but he posted a 2.65 ERA in 66 appearances in 2017.

The club also traded for relief prospect John Curtiss from the Twins, and while Curtiss has a 7.20 ERA in 17 career appearances over the previous two seasons, he throws hard and has strong career Minor League numbers.

What free-agent relievers are available?
There are still many relievers who remain unsigned and the Angels could look to add a veteran lefty after trading away Alvarez. Lefty relievers who remain available include Tony Sipp, Jake Diekman, Xavier Cedeno, Aaron Loup and Dan Jennings.

The Angels aren't interested in closer Craig Kimbrel, while other right-handers on the market include Nick Vincent, Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard, Adam Warren, Ryan Madson and Brad Boxberger.

Projected bullpen (2018 stats)
Cody Allen (4-6, 4.70 ERA, 67 IP, 0.0 WAR)
Ty Buttrey (0-1, 3.31 ERA, 16 1/3 IP, 0.1 WAR)
Hansel Robles (2-3, 3.70 ERA, 56 IP, 0.3 WAR)
Luis Garcia (3-1, 6.07 ERA, 46 IP, -0.3 WAR)
Justin Anderson (3-3, 4.07 ERA, 55 1/3 IP, 0.4 WAR)
Cam Bedrosian (5-4, 3.80 ERA, 64 IP, 0.3 WAR)
Noe Ramirez (7-5, 4.54 ERA, 83 1/3 IP, 0.1 WAR)

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels, Cody Allen, Cam Bedrosian, Hansel Robles