TEMPE, Ariz. -- Rich Thompson is out of Minor League options -- baseball lingo for "It's now or never."Sydney, Australia's gift to the Angels' pitching staff, Thompson has that easy-going, easy-smiling manner associated with Aussies and their mates. He'll go about his business this spring bidding to hook a spot in the Angels' crowded bullpen. If that doesn't materialize, he'll try to hook on elsewhere, along the lines of former teammate Darren O'Day, who is now starring in the Rangers' bullpen. "I'm out of options, so it's make or break," Thompson, 26, said. "You can't control it. If you do your job, things will play out. It certainly worked out for Darren. He's become one of the best." Thompson's ninth professional season in 2010 was a breakthrough. He incorporated a cut fastball into a repertoire featuring a mid-90s heater and big curve, and he also figured some things out mentally that he feels were highly beneficial. "I think I had to work it out for myself," he said. "At the beginning of last year, I took a different attitude. I was doing it for me instead of trying to impress everybody else. It's my career, and I need to take control of it instead of worrying about what anybody else was thinking. It's probably a little selfish, but it definitely worked -- especially in Triple-A [Salt Lake]. "The cutter kind of gave me a feeling that if I got behind in the count, I didn't have to blow a guy away. Anybody in the big leagues can hit a 95-mph fastball -- especially if it's straight. The cutter gave me something to get guys out earlier in the count. With four pitches now, it gives me a 25 percent chance they're going to guess right." After dominating Pacific Coast League hitters, Thompson brought his confidence and cutter to the American League and continued to excel down the stretch. In 13 appearances covering 19 2/3 innings, he allowed only 16 baserunners while striking out 15. His 1.37 ERA was the best on the staff as he held opponents to a .171 batting average and .216 on-base mark. "Rich really came on for us," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's got some big league stuff. There's a lot of competition for roster spots in the bullpen, and he's in the mix."
Reckling searching for right stuff
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Last year at this time, Trevor Reckling was the most talked-about young arm at Angels camp. He appeared to be jumping on the fast track to "The Show."The train slowed along the way. After a strong effort at Double-A Arkansas in 2009, Reckling struggled to find his command and prime-time fastball last year at Triple-A Salt Lake and was returned to Arkansas. There, the southpaw from New Jersey regained his feel and confidence and showed up at camp this week determined to reestablish his credentials as a premium prospect. "I feel good about where I am now," Reckling, 21, said. "I learned some things last year that I think will help me. It was a struggle at times, but nobody said it was going to be easy." Angels manager Mike Scioscia called it "a little bit of a mystery" that Reckling went from throwing in the low 90s to the 86/87-mph range at Salt Lake. Reckling's complicated mechanics create deception, but they also can take him out of whack when the mechanism isn't quite right. "This kid gets after it," Scioscia said. "Much like Scott Kazmir, the ball's coming out easier. The guy spins the ball well with a terrific changeup. He has the potential to be a terrific Major League pitcher. He's young. "I think he's getting back in touch with some elements of his delivery which are important. He's got a lot of deception, which plays up his velocity, much like [Jered] Weaver. He hides the ball well. At times, [his delivery] gets jerky and it affects his command." Reckling is expected to start the season at Salt Lake. Given his age and experience level, he's right on schedule.
Morales looking good at Angels camp
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels first baseman Kendry Morales said he felt perfectly fine swinging from both sides of the plate in his recovery from surgery on his lower left leg, and hitting coach Mickey Hatcher has seen nothing to dispute that in early workouts."He's able to do whatever he wants right now -- hit balls off the wall the other way, homers, line drives," Hatcher said. "This guy looks good." Morales said his one hurdle is regaining full running speed, and that will take some time. But he's encouraged by hitting in spikes and feeling no pain in the left ankle area. Shortstop Erick Aybar and outfielder Chris Pettit, also rebounding from injuries, have been swinging the bat under Hatcher's supervision.
The emotional tone of the Angels' clubhouse lifted noticeably on Thursday morning with the arrival of Torii Hunter, who dropped in to say hello. The unofficial captain and the rest of the position players will hold their first full workout on Saturday. "I'm psyched," Hunter said. "Had a good winter. I feel much better than when I got here last spring coming off sports hernia surgery. I feel like I'm all the way back, ready to go full tilt." ... Manager Mike Scioscia believes that defensive statistics are the most difficult to quantify because there are so many variables that cannot be computed. "Take for instance an outfielder with a great arm, like Ellis Valentine. He might not have thrown out many guys advancing because nobody ran on him. You can't put a number on that. Torii might not throw out a lot of guys this year, because they respect his arm. But that doesn't mean he's not the best right fielder in the game. Some statistical stuff is worth looking at and can help. But I'll still go with the scouting end of it when you talk about evaluating defense."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.