Phil Nevin says Angels closer ‘depends on what the game dictates’

Angels reliever Carlos Estevez, left, walks off the mound as manager Phil Nevin, right, talks with catcher Logan O’Hoppe during the fourth inning of their Cactus League game against the Dodgers on Sept. 3. March 2023 in Tempe, Arizona (AP). Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. — While right-hander Carlos Estevez was widely expected to get the first shot at the Angels’ closer job, some mystery will remain until the first save situation.

“They asked me who you would use the first night,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said Saturday. “I do not know yet. It depends on what the game dictates.”

The Angels signed Estevez to a two-year, $13.5 million deal in December. The official word at the time was only that he would have a chance to close. Estevez said that winning that job was his goal.

The 30-year-old Estevez had a 3.47 ERA last season with the Colorado Rockies, and his record shows signs he should be even more effective outside of the hitter-friendly environment of Coors Field. Last year, he struck out 10.8 batters per nine innings on the road, compared to 6.3 at home.

In his first spring with the Angels, Estevez has been experimenting with different uses of the court, so it remains to be seen how he will perform when the games are real.

Estevez allowed eight earned runs in 5 1/3 innings in major league exhibition games. He allowed just three earned runs in his last five innings. And in his most recent game, on Tuesday, he pitched a scoreless inning with three strikeouts.

In that game, Estevez threw nine fastballs, seven changeups and three sliders. Last season, he threw his fastball 70% of the time and his changeup and slider about 15% each, indicating he may still have been experimenting.

If the Angels don’t use Estevez to close out, the other likely options are Ryan Tepera and Jimmy Herget.

Nevin was remarkably flexible with his closer choices last year after Raisel Iglesias was traded.

“If I bring in (lefty) Aaron Loup in the seventh and they throw a bunch of rights to him and they don’t have anybody else, Jimmy Herget is great against righties,” Nevin said. “Estevez is great against rights. Matt Moore has been great against rights. We’ll just play to see how he does, but (Estevez) will definitely get big late-game outs most of the year for us.”


Right-hander Chris Rodriguez threw 30 pitches in a live batting practice session, his second such practice session this week. He hadn’t faced hitters since before he underwent shoulder surgery in 2021.

Nevin said the next step for Rodriguez will likely be another live batting practice session, and then they could have him pitch in a minor league or simulated game.

“That’s two starts in a row where he felt good and was able to build up his numbers and veil, form is improving,” Nevin said. “Everything suits him. Obviously, it’s the next day, there’s always some nervous anticipation. Hopefully he feels good tomorrow and he can be back at it in a couple of days.”