02/26/2013 3:03 PM ET
Back to old self, Jepsen keeping things simple
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- There was a point last season, while looking to rebound in Triple-A after a rough start in the Majors, when Kevin Jepsen believes he "stopped trying to be someone else."
Heading into the 2011 season, on the heels of a year in which he posted a 3.97 ERA as a reliable member of the Angels' bullpen, Jepsen lost almost 30 pounds, believing it would make him more agile on the mound. All it led to was weakened legs and season-ending knee surgery.
Heading into 2012, while trying to simply get a feel for pitching again, Jepsen toyed with adding a two-seamer to an arsenal that was already three pitches deep. It led to losing command of his four-seamer, cutter and curveball, then posting a 10.29 ERA in April before being optioned to the Minor Leagues.
Then, at last, he just decided to keep it simple.
"Everything outside that happens before you get on the mound during the game, as far as working to refine mechanics, throw that out. Working to come up with a fourth pitch, throw that out," Jepsen said. "Taking my pitches, taking my mechanics, the way I throw, just do that every time, so I know what I'm going out with every time."
Jepsen returned to the Angels with that clean mindset in July, and immediately showed why there was never a need to tinker.
From July 5 on, the 28-year-old right-hander led the Angels in holds (16) while posting a 1.67 ERA and holding opposing batters to a .278 on-base percentage. Now, he's part of the reason -- along with the additions of Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett, plus the returns of Ernesto Frieri and Scott Downs -- why the Angels feel their bullpen should be a strength in 2013.
Jepsen reported to camp this year at his normal weight (245, as opposed to the 218 he weighed in at two springs ago). He ended his pursuits of that fourth pitch, and he stopped worrying so much about his mechanics.
Mostly, he embraced himself.
"I didn't change my mechanics at all in the offseason," Jepsen said. "No more developing pitches, either. I have three pitches, and that's plenty for a guy coming out of the 'pen. I was just able to repeat my delivery. Right now, I felt like even up to this point before games, where I've thrown only bullpens, this is the best I've been throwing bullpens, because I don't feel off at all. I feel like I picked up where I was at last year."
Pujols running toward Cactus League contests
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Albert Pujols, recovering from offseason arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, continues to take batting practice, run on the treadmill and field ground balls in his general vicinity.
Later this week, Pujols will start running on the field -- first in a straight line, then gradually working in turns so he can eventually run the bases. And in a couple of weeks -- around mid-March, as planned -- he'll start playing in Cactus League games, with Opening Day on April 1 still not in doubt.
The Angels open the season under National League rules, against the Reds in Cincinnati, so Pujols won't be able to serve as the designated hitter. But the Angels are off the following day, then travel to the Rangers' American League park two days later.
Pujols is the only everyday position player who hasn't made his way into the Angels' lineup.
"There's no need to rush him," manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think if Opening Day was on the horizon, he might feel the need to push it a little bit. He really doesn't need to be into games until probably the second week of March. I anticipate he'll play before then, for him to be ready for the season."
• Alberto Callaspo came into camp 18 to 20 pounds overweight, but Scioscia said the Angels' third baseman has trimmed most of it off and is a "handful" of pounds away from his playing weight. "He was too heavy," Scioscia said. "… He wanted to recoup last offseason. He's trimmed it off, though. I don't think it was anything excessive. He's not far from his playing weight now."
• Non-rehabbing Angels relievers -- guys like Scott Downs, Ernesto Frieri and Kevin Jepsen -- aren't expected to start getting into games until the first week of March. The only non-rehabbing, non-roster reliever who hasn't appeared in a game is Brandon Sisk, who was obtained from the Royals for Ervin Santana. He could appear in a game as soon as Wednesday.
• Sean Burnett (stiff lower back) and Ryan Madson (Tommy John surgery) each threw off flat ground again on Tuesday, representing back-to-back days for both. Scioscia said Burnett will get on a mound "soon," but not within the next couple of days because he still needs to progress with his long-tossing.
• The Angels assigned veteran reliever Tony Pena to Minor League camp before Tuesday's game. Pena underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2011, signed with the Angels in August 2012 and made two appearances in rookie ball, but felt some pain while trying to pitch in winter ball and shut it down. The 31-year-old right-hander has been throwing from 75 feet and expects to get back on the mound in two to three weeks.
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.