Four years after impressing the Angels as rookie sensations, reliever Jordan Walden and outfielder Peter Bourjos are being reunited on the 2015 Cardinals. If they produce for the Cardinals like they did for the 2011 Angels, it would help St. Louis remain an elite contender in the National League.
Walden and Bourjos both made their major-league debuts with the Angels in August 2010. In their first full big-league seasons, Walden was the closer and Bourjos was the regular center fielder for a 2011 Angels team that achieved 86 wins.
The Cardinals acquired Walden and outfielder Jason Heyward from the Braves on Nov. 17, 2014, for pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. Walden is expected to excel in a setup role in the 2015 Cardinals bullpen. He also serves as insurance in case closer Trevor Rosenthal is hurt or ineffective.
Bourjos, acquired by the Cardinals with outfielder Randal Grichuk from the Angels for third baseman David Freese and reliever Fernando Salas on Nov. 22, 2013, hit .231 with nine doubles and five triples in 119 games for the 2014 Cardinals.
The 2015 Cardinals would like to see Bourjos perform like he did in 2011 when he hit .271 with 26 doubles and 11 triples in 147 games for the Angels.
Walden also was stellar that season, producing a 5-5 record with 32 saves and a 2.98 ERA for the 2011 Angels. He broke the Angels’ rookie record for saves (22) set by Ken Tatum in 1969.
Walden, 27, is 12-13 with 38 saves and a 3.10 ERA in five big-league seasons with the Angels and Braves.
Here are 5 key items Cardinals fans should know about Jordan Walden:
1. Dazzling debut
With the Twins leading the Angels, 4-0, on Aug. 22, 2010, at Minneapolis, Walden was brought in to pitch the bottom of the eighth in his big-league debut.
He threw a fastball clocked at 99 mph to the first batter he faced, Joe Mauer.
Mauer walked and Jason Kubel singled, putting runners on first and third with no outs.
Walden then struck out Michael Cuddyer and Jim Thome before getting Delmon Young on a ground out, stranding the runners.
Asked afterward how Walden ranked among Angels pitching prospects, manager Mike Scioscia told the Orange County Register, “Jordan is a guy who has the most upside of the guys we were looking at.” Boxscore
2. Cardinals connections
On June 17, 2011, Walden and Bourjos combined to help Angels starting pitcher Joel Pineiro, a former Cardinal, earn his 100th win in the majors.
Facing the Mets at New York, Bourjos hit a RBI-double off starter Chris Capuano in the top of the sixth, giving the Angels a 3-2 lead. In the bottom half of the inning, Bourjos made a leaping grab of a Ronny Paulino drive off Pineiro before crashing into the center field wall.
In the ninth, with the Angels ahead, 4-3, Walden came in for the save. He walked the first two batters, Jose Reyes and Justin Turner. He then struck out Carlos Beltran, Daniel Murphy and Angel Pagan on sliders.
“He threw some terrific breaking balls,” Scioscia said of Walden. Boxscore
3. Replacing Rivera
Walden was named to the 2011 American League all-star team as a replacement for the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera, who had a triceps injury. “Even being mentioned in the same sentence with him is pretty awesome,” Walden said.
Walden, who had 19 saves, a 2.95 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 36.2 innings at the time of his selection, was the sixth Angels rookie to make an AL all-star team and the first since pitcher Jason Dickson in 1997.
4. Change of pace
Walden, a right-hander, has held left-handed batters to a .199 average in his career in the majors. Right-handed batters have hit .232 against him.
One reason for his success against left-handed batters is his changeup, which darts down when thrown well. “I like to show it to lefties because it fades away from them,” Walden said.
5. Angels angst
With the signing of free agent Albert Pujols from the Cardinals, the 2012 Angels were considered a certain pennant contender. Instead, despite the addition of a second wild-card team, the Angels failed to qualify for the postseason.
Part of the blame was placed on Bourjos, who slumped to a .220 batting mark with 37 hits in 101 games, and on Walden, who had an 8.31 ERA after his first six appearances.
Walden was replaced as the closer by Ernesto Frieri.
So desperate for relief help were the 2012 Angels that 40-year-old Jason Isringhausen, the former Cardinals closer, made 50 appearances for them.
Walden did recover and finished the 2012 season at 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 39 innings. Still, the Angels traded him to the Braves for pitcher Tommy Hanson on Nov. 30, 2012.
In two seasons with the Braves in a setup role for closer Craig Kimbrel, Walden was 4-5 with a 3.15 ERA, four saves and 116 strikeouts in 97 innings.