Hector Santiago grew up about a 20-minute drive from Yankee Stadium, in Newark, N.J., and has an entire section of people in the Bronx this weekend.
Santiago estimated that roughly 350 people bought tickets to Friday's series opener, a 13-1 rout by his Angels. And he expects about 200 to be in the house when he makes his fifth start of the season on Saturday afternoon, opposite left-hander Vidal Nuno.
So many of them made the trip that they've had to charter buses.
"Those buses have been booked since Spring Training," Santiago said. "When I got traded, they asked, 'Hey, when are you playing the Yankees?'"
Santiago, who has given up just one earned run in his last 12 2/3 innings to drop his ERA to 3.68, grew up a big Yankees fan, making roughly 20 trips to the old Yankee Stadium and basking in one of the greatest eras in franchise history.
"I loved watching Andy Pettitte pitch," said Santiago, who got a jersey signed by Pettitte last year. "David Cone, David Wells, Doc Gooden when he was here -- all these guys. It was fun to watch, man. Those were the main guys I grew up watching. I liked all the pitchers, and obviously [shortstop Derek] Jeter."
Angels: Smith to close for now
Struggling right-hander Ernesto Frieri has been demoted from the closer's role, relegated to lower-leverage situations, and sidearmer Joe Smith is taking over the ninth inning in the interim.
Frieri, who was charged with four runs, all earned, in Wednesday's 5-4, walk-off loss to the Nationals, has two blown saves, a 9.35 ERA and five homers allowed in 8 2/3 innings to start the season. Signed to a three-year, $15.75 million contract over the offseason, Smith has a career 2.99 ERA but only three saves in eight seasons.
"We don't have any reservations about that," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Smith's inexperience as a closer. "I think that short term, Joe will be good, and I think it'll hopefully give Ernie a chance to find his release point."
Yankees: Nuno looking to take advantage
Nuno is replacing the injured Ivan Nova, who is preparing to undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, and the left-hander knows this is a big opportunity to prove himself at this level.
The 26-year-old Nuno, a 48th-round Draft pick of the Indians in 2009, pitched five scoreless innings against the Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Sunday. At the time, it was considered a spot start. Now, it looks like it'll be an extended stay.
"It's a big step," Nuno said. "It's trying to stick, trying to produce and trying to get people out."
• The Angels lead the Majors with 35 homers, and that's already a franchise record for March/April -- with five April games still remaining.
• The Yankees have won each of their last five home season series against the Angels, from 2009-13. They've gone 15-7 against the Angels at the current Yankee Stadium.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.