Mike Morin hopes to fill seventh-inning reliever spot with Angels

Key to getting the job for Mike Morin is being more effective against left-handed hitters

The seventh-inning relief role held by Kevin Jepsen last season is up for grabs, and Angels right-hander Mike Morin plans to seize it.

"Once Jeppy got traded to Tampa Bay," Morin said before Monday's workout, "that was my goal."

Morin, 23, had a strong rookie season in 2014, going 4-4 with a 2.90 earned-run average in 60 games, striking out 54 and walking 19 in 59 innings, and stranding 34 of 43 inherited runners.

To lock down that key spot in front of setup man Joe Smith and closer Huston Street, Morin will have to be more effective against left-handed hitters.

Morin was dominant against right-handed hitters last season, holding them to a .181 average. But left-handers hit .283, surprising because Morin has a very good changeup, which is usually an effective weapon for a right-handed pitcher against left-handed hitters.

"I watched a lot of video this winter trying to diagnose what, when and why I struggled against left-handers," Morin said. "A lot of it had to do with the two-seam fastball I was throwing. It was running [away from hitters] instead of sinking."

It wasn't as if left-handers crushed Morin, who gave up three homers all season, one to a left-hander. The majority of the outs he got off left-handers came on changeups, but those fastballs away were often stroked into left field for hits instead of beaten into the ground.

"I've been working on a good two-seamer that has some late sink to it and improving my slider," Morin said. "I was throwing a lot of fastballs down and away instead of jamming them inside. I want to give them a different look."

Richards progressing

Garrett Richards took another step in his rehabilitation from surgery to his left knee, throwing 40 pitches Monday in his third bullpen session of the spring, a workout pitching coach Mike Butcher called "outstanding."

Richards went 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA before suffering a torn patellar tendon while covering first base last August. He said his goal has been to return by the April 6 season opener, but that is unlikely.

Manager Mike Scioscia said the right-hander is at least 10 days away from participating in fielding drills. Richards won't be ready to pitch when exhibition games begin in early March, and he'll probably open the regular season on the disabled list.

"We're expecting him back very shortly after the start of the season," Scioscia said. "Whether that's two times through the rotation or four times, we don't know. The last 5% of any rehab is obviously the important time."

Lock-down

Grant Green, who will compete with Josh Rutledge and Johnny Giavotella for the second-base and utility jobs, sported an aerodynamic look upon reporting to camp. Gone was the long, curly hair he has had for years, replaced by a boot camp-style crew cut.

"I got tired of the maintenance," Green said.

Green hit .273 in 43 games for the Angels last year. At 27, he is in his seventh professional season, but this is the first time he has come to spring training with a chance to win a big league job out of the gate.

"I'm going to approach it the same as any other spring — go in and have fun," Green said. "If you put more pressure on yourself, you're going to mess up. There's a reason why I'm here. I can play. Just go out and prove it."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna

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