Huston Street has been a durable, dependable big league closer for 12 seasons. He hasn’t even had to compete for the job since 2009.
After knee surgery ended the least impressive season of his career, Street is in for a fight this spring with the Los Angeles Angels.
And he welcomes it.
The two-time All-Star with 324 career saves is competing with youngster Cam Bedrosian and well-traveled veteran Andrew Bailey for the top job in the Angels’ bullpen. Instead of sulking, Street eagerly reported to camp this week looking trim and determined to earn his way back to the ninth inning.
“I’m pulling for these guys, because these guys are my teammates,” Street said, looking down the row of lockers at Tempe Diablo Stadium. “So I’m pulling for them to do good. I’m pulling for myself to do good. But I want to be the closer, and I’m hoping they choose me, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”
Street was off to another strong start last season until he strained his left oblique muscle in late April. After a month off, he believes he returned with mechanics that were compensating for his injury, and he subsequently injured his right knee.
He had arthroscopic knee surgery in August, finishing the dismal year with nine saves and 16 runs allowed in 22 1-3 innings.
Street said he understands why the Angels have opened up the competition for his job.
“I guess you could raise a big stink, but that would just be a big distraction for the team, and that’s not something that I want to do,” Street said. “I’m preparing for the season because just like in 2009.”
Street’s last real spring competition was eight years ago, when the Colorado Rockies struggled to decide between him and Manny Corpas. Street, who had just arrived in a trade with Oakland, eventually won that job after it changed hands twice in April.
He has been his team’s closer for most of his ensuing eight seasons in Denver, San Diego and Anaheim. Now 33 years old and coming off knee surgery, Street is competing with the two relievers who took over as the Angels’ closer after he was lost for the season.
Bedrosian has only one career save in 96 appearances for the Angels, but he was their most impressive reliever last summer before a blood clot in his pitching arm also ended his season in August. The hard-throwing son of famed closer Steve Bedrosian appears ready for a bigger role.
Bailey revived his career last season with the Angels after struggling for most of the previous three years. The two-time All-Star looked good enough in 12 appearances with the Angels to earn a new contract for this season.
But if Street recaptures his form from his previous few seasons, the Angels likely will have their answer to one of the biggest questions for a pitching staff full of significant competition.
“Our bullpen, I think as we get down to the end of March, this is going to be the first year in a long time where you have some really tough decisions to make,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “You’re going to have some tough conversations, and that just speaks to what we feel is the depth of our club right now.”
Street realizes he has several weeks of work ahead before the decision is made, and he intends to use them.
“It doesn’t change how I’m going to play catch,” Street said. “It doesn’t change my bullpen. … I’m trying to get my slider. If I take care of that, the results take care of themselves. They just will.
“I’m good at baseball when I’m healthy.”