C.J. Wilson flung a ball against the 4-foot wall between the field and stands at Tempe Diablo Stadium. It boomeranged back to him, and he threw it away again.
While his teammates played standard-issue catch Saturday morning, Wilson attempted to refine his new approach to pitching. The left-hander paused several times during a session with Angels strength and conditioning coach T.J. Harrington to mime the throwing motion he sought.
Wilson is in an unusual position with two weeks remaining until opening day: He says he has transformed the way he pitches to try to remain relevant.
"If you're paying attention," Wilson said, "what ... is that guy throwing over there?"
"I've re-created a new, different delivery with a different arm slot. I throw completely different than I did last year. I won't even look like the same pitcher."
The 35-year-old left-hander has not yet brought the delivery to a mound. Before he feels comfortable doing so, he said, he has to add 100 feet to his throwing. It will be a while; he will open the season on the disabled list.
"When you try to get off the mound too early, I think it's counterproductive," Wilson said. "If you don't have the arm strength, then you're not really gonna be doing anything effective on the mound."
Wilson entered this spring throwing the same way he has in the past. He felt healthy all off-season after August surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow. But discomfort during an early-spring bullpen session led to an MRI exam, and the exam showed tendinitis in his shoulder.
"That's when I looked at the video and said, 'This isn't right. We're gonna have to scuttle this whole thing and start over,'" Wilson said.
Manager Mike Scioscia disagreed. He said Wilson was not starting over, only making minor adjustments.
"It's not so different that he hasn't done it before," Scioscia said. "He's just trying to find a comfortable arm slot. He's trying a slot that might be a little more conducive to where he is right now and what he's feeling."
The slot Wilson featured in playing catch Saturday was lower, although not dramatically so.
Wilson said he still feels better than he did for most of 2015, when he pitched through elbow and shoulder pain to post a 3.89 earned-run average in 132 innings. That caused him nerve damage and rendered him incapable of straightening his arm.
Extensive off-season rehab returned to him that ability. It did not last. When he first started throwing at all-out effort, in February, the shoulder resumed feeling the same way.
If he continued to pitch that way, Wilson said, he would be throwing 80 mph with an over-the-top throwing motion. That, he noted dryly, would not work in the major leagues.
So he is trying something new in his fifth and final season under contract with the Angels and his seventh season as a starting pitcher.
"I couldn't build any more arm strength because the deficiencies in the shoulder are too high," Wilson said. "I have to throw differently now. I have to throw like somebody else. I have to be a new person."
Left-hander Tyler Skaggs threw a two-inning simulated game Saturday, his first time facing hitters since he suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament on July 31, 2014. He'll now pitch in a minor league game on Thursday after lobbying to pitch in a Cactus League game and failing. …The Angels optioned infielders Kyle Kubitza and Kaleb Cowart to minor league camp and reassigned infielder Sherman Johnson to the same location. Kubitza and Cowart were both considered likely, at alternate points, to take over third base for the Angels this season, but the team acquired Yunel Escobar over the off-season to temporarily fill the hole.