TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels reliever Fernando Salas had an under-the-radar rebirth in 2014, posting a 3.38 ERA, striking out 9.4 batters per nine innings and appearing in 57 Major League games after spending half of the previous year stuck in the Cardinals' Triple-A affiliate.
But the 29-year-old right-hander has navigated through his entire career with a dangerously high fly-ball rate, which most notably led to serving up the game-winning homer in Game 1 of the American League Division Series last October.
That's why Salas' goal this spring is to gain confidence in his sinker.
Salas has thrown his sinker no more than five percent of the time in his Major League career and feels it was "very inconsistent" last season. Salas didn't think he needed it because his four-seam fastball already has good tailing action, but it doesn't have the downward movement that results in ground balls, and ground balls are a reliever's best friend.
"It's important for giving the infield an opportunity to get the double plays," Salas said in Spanish. "Fly balls can sometimes be the difference in a game. I'm trying to get more ground balls."
Among relievers with at least 240 appearances over the last five seasons, Salas has the 11th-lowest ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio in the Majors at 0.79 (former Angels closer Ernesto Frieri has the lowest at 0.49). Angel Stadium can be a friendly venue for fly-ball pitchers (see: Jered Weaver), but sometimes fly balls sail over fences.
Grounders never do.
"I've been working really hard on that sinker," Salas said. "It's the one thing that I feel I need to get better at that."
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.