TEMPE, Ariz. — No one in camp is comparing Kevin Jepsen to sidearm-throwing Joe Smith, but there is a noticeable difference in the delivery of the Angels reliever, who has gone from a straight over-the-top motion to a three-quarter-arm slot.
"This off-season I thought, 'As a kid, you pick up a rock and throw it, you're going to throw your natural way,' and my natural way is down here," Jepsen said, mimicking his new motion.
"Since I had shoulder surgery in 2004, I've been trying to find something that didn't hurt. I was always fighting my mechanics, trying different things. This feels right."
Jepsen, who was 1-3 with a 4.50 earned-run average in 45 games last season, has retained the velocity of his 96-mph fastball but said that "maybe I'll throw it where I want to and keep the ball down."
Instead of relying on a cut-fastball that too often broke side to side instead of down, Jepsen will feature a curveball and changeup as secondary pitches.
"My curve is filthy right now, and I started throwing a changeup, so watch out for that," Jepsen said. "I feel very confident with where I'm at. I think the changeup will be huge, especially against left-handers."
Jepsen has held right-handers to a .249 average, .312 on-base percentage and .319 slugging percentage in five seasons, but left-handers have a .298/.376/.410 slash line against him.
"He definitely looks different, you can tell," catcher Chris Iannetta said. "He's been very consistent with his delivery. He's had a hard time in the past throwing his curve for strikes, but it looks like he can command it a lot better."
Angels mum on possible Mike Trout contract
Neither General Manager Jerry Dipoto nor agent Craig Landis would comment on a Yahoo Sports report that the Angels and Mike Trout are discussing a six-year contract extension that would pay the star center fielder about $150 million. Trout found the speculation amusing.
"I have no comment, but I like how a lot of people are writing it," Trout, 22, said. "It's pretty funny."
Such a deal would make sense for Trout, who finished second in American League most-valuable-player voting the last two seasons and is still four years away from free agency. It would secure him financially for life and allow him to become a free agent in his prime at 28.
But it would not make as much sense for the Angels, who are believed to be pushing for a deal of seven years or more. Any extension would likely include a huge signing bonus and begin in 2015, but it would not be announced until after the start of the regular season.
That would allow the Angels, who are bumping up against the $189-million luxury-tax threshold, to push Trout's contract for luxury-tax purposes to 2015.
Trout had a .326/.399/.564 slash line with 30 home runs, 83 runs batted in, 129 runs and 49 stolen bases in 2012. He had a .323/.432/.557 slash line with 27 home runs, 97 RBIs, 109 runs and 33 stolen bases in 2013.
An Angels contingent led by Manager Mike Scioscia and Dipoto will join several Cactus League teams Monday in Scottsdale, Ariz., for a meeting with Major League Baseball officials regarding new instant-replay procedures. … Reliever Sean Burnett, who underwent surgery for an elbow tear last August, has stretched his long-toss program to 120 feet and hopes to begin throwing off a mound the first week of March.
Twitter: @MikeDiGiovannaCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times