Percival Adjusting to Renewed Strength


If you thought Angel closer Troy Percival struggled with his control while he battled a sore shoulder and elbow for much of last season, you should have seen him warming up in the bullpen.

“When you’re throwing balls off the rocks and you don’t know why, you start to wonder,” Percival said. “It took two or three of those before I started getting loose. You like to have some idea what you’re doing, especially when you only have one run to work with.”

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Feb. 28, 2001 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday February 28, 2001 Orange County Edition Sports Part D Page 14 Sports Desk 1 inches; 24 words Type of Material: Correction
Baseball--A graphic Tuesday misstated the Angels’ schedule. They play an exhibition game against Arizona at Edison Field April 1. Their opening day game is at Texas April 3.

It’s doubtful there’s another pitcher in baseball who tinkers with his mechanics more than Percival. In an effort to compensate for various arm and neck injuries, the right-hander spent the last two seasons continually adjusting his motion and arm angles, looking for a comfortable slot.


“The last two years have been an absolute mental frenzy on the mound,” Percival said. “I was trying to get people out without a breaking ball, without command of my fastball. It makes the year horribly long, having to think about how you pitch instead of letting it fly.”

Percival hopes to refind his wings this spring. After undergoing shoulder surgery last winter and admittedly coming back too soon in 2000, Percival did very little throwing this winter, concentrating instead on strength, conditioning and nutrition.

He is feeling so good he plans to revive the power curve that helped make him so devastating in 1995 and ‘96, when he combined for a 2.13 earned-run average in 148 innings in his first two seasons. He is spending the early part of camp essentially reteaching himself how to throw with proper mechanics.

“This year, I’m using less legs because my arm strength is better,” Percival said. “Before, I was pushing too much too soon because my arm wasn’t sound. The feeling is coming. I know when I do it right, and I’ve been doing it right 60%-70% of the time.”

Though Percival had 32 saves in 2000, he wasn’t nearly as reliable as he usually is, going 5-5 with a 4.50 ERA and 10 blown saves. Any successful bullpen is anchored by a dominant closer, so the Angels need Percival to find his old form, when he could throw his 95-mph fastball on the corners and mix in his curve and changeup.

“I had to think about every pitch before, and I think I lost some confidence worrying about hitting guys in the head,” Percival said. “But I’m starting to feel more natural. My pitches are in the vicinity of where I want them to go. In another month, it should be good.”



The Angels will have intrasquad games today and Wednesday in preparation for their Cactus League opener Friday against Seattle.

Tim Belcher and Ismael Valdes will start today’s game, and Jarrod Washburn and Pat Rapp will pitch Wednesday, each scheduled to throw an inning.