Morin fighting to earn seventh-inning role in bullpen

Right-hander hopes to improve against lefties after struggling last season

Morin fighting to earn seventh-inning role in bullpen

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels reliever Mike Morin entered camp with two clearly defined goals -- take over the seventh inning and improve against opposing left-handed hitters.

They pretty much go hand in hand.

Morin understands that if he wants to fill the seventh-inning role that became vacant when Kevin Jepsen was dealt for Matt Joyce, he has to do a better job of controlling lefties. The 23-year-old right-hander throws two changeups, one of which he uses as a pitch to tail away from lefties. But left-handed hitters still managed to post a .283/.357/.381 slash line against Morin last year, while righties only hit .181/.235/.276.

Lefties only batted .182 against Morin's changeup, which he threw to them 25 percent of the time. But they batted .286 against his slider (21 percent), .340 against his four-seam fastball (39 percent) and .600 against his sinker (15 percent).

Morin makes vital appearance

"I should be able to control lefties; it shouldn't be the other way around," said Morin, who nonetheless finished his rookie season with a 2.90 ERA in 60 appearances. "But I didn't pitch in enough, and my slider wasn't good enough. There's just certain things I need to focus on to be that guy who can get lefties and righties out. I'm not a right-hand specialist."

Jepsen was one of Morin's main mentors last season, and as soon as Jepsen was sent to the Rays on Dec. 16, taking over his seventh-inning role became Morin's focus. The Angels didn't have a set seventh-inning reliever until the final two months of the season, and may go with an assortment of arms in that role -- Morin, Fernando Salas, Cesar Ramos and Cory Rasmus -- to start this year, too.

Regardless of their plans, Morin pretty much has a solidified spot in the bullpen, but he still treats Spring Training as a venue to prove himself, not to work on stuff.

"A hundred percent," Morin said. "There's nothing wrong with that. I don't think I can over-prepare for this. I feel prepared, and I'm ready to go out there and make a statement."

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.