ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Ryan Madson agreed to a one-year deal on Wednesday with the Los Angeles Angels, who believe the right-handed reliever will make a strong comeback from Tommy John surgery.
The longtime Philadelphia reliever missed all of last season with the Cincinnati Reds, who signed him in January after a stellar performance in 2011 with the Phillies. He underwent surgery in April on a torn ligament in his right elbow.
Well ahead of schedule in his recovery from surgery, Madson said he expects to be the Angels' closer. General manager Jerry Dipoto agreed the veteran is likely to supplant Ernesto Frieri when fully healthy.
"I feel like if I can throw the ball like I'm capable of, I expect to have that role," Madson said. "I expect to come to spring training and earn the job."
Madson pitched his first nine big-league seasons with Philadelphia, going 47-30 with 52 saves and a 3.59 ERA while logging several years as a setup man. He was outstanding after the Phillies promoted him to be their closer in 2011, earning 32 saves in 34 chances with a 2.37 ERA.
He nearly agreed to a four-year, $44 million deal with the Phillies before talks collapsed, and he signed with Cincinnati instead. But Madson developed discomfort in his elbow during spring training and never pitched in the regular season for the Reds, putting him back on the free-agent market a year later.
The Angels, desperate for bullpen help after blowing an AL-worst 47 saves over the past two seasons, immediately investigated Madson's health. Los Angeles likely imagines a profitable veteran pickup in the mold of Joe Nathan, who had 37 saves for the Texas Rangers last year after missing parts of the previous two seasons following Tommy John surgery.
"He's very enthusiastic, and clearly loved the idea of playing for the Angels, which isn't something you can take for granted," Dipoto said. "Somebody getting to do something they've wanted to do for their whole lives creates a very romantic edge to it."
Indeed, the deal is a homecoming for Madson, who was born in Long Beach and grew up in Moreno Valley, Calif., roughly 45 miles east of Anaheim in Riverside County. He lives in nearby Temecula, Calif., in the offseason.
"I grew up an Angels fan," Madson said. "I watched a lot of baseball, and that's how I gained a lot of my knowledge. I always enjoyed watching the local team and dreamed of playing for the Angels. I was a little concerned with letting Jerry know about my excitement about playing for Anaheim. There's a romantic part, but there's also a little edge to it."
If healthy, Madson will be a major addition to a bullpen that foundered for much of the past two seasons after a decade as one of the majors' most consistent groups. Los Angeles got little reliable bullpen work from anybody except veteran Scott Downs and Frieri, who didn't allow an earned run in his first 26 appearances before the All-Star break.
"The domino effect is the most appealing thing here," Dipoto said. "Having Ryan Madson join the bullpen and creating the depth gives us options to get ... those last nine outs. Our ability to get those last nine outs just got a lot better. He'll come into spring training and compete for that (closer) role, and if he's throwing the ball like he has in the past, he's one of the elite relievers in the game."
Madson said he's making about 100 throws a day from 90 to 100 feet while rebuilding strength in his arm. With three months to prepare before spring training, he believes he'll be ready to join the Angels' bullpen in plenty of time for the season.
"If Ryan is ready on opening day, we're ready to roll," Dipoto said. "If it takes a little longer than that, we have the ability to cover the front counter. It just creates a nice bullpen depth. Every good bullpen needs an anchorman, and Ryan Madson has proved his ability in that regard."