Angels reliever Mike Morin is 25. Over the last three seasons, he has appeared in 167 major league games. Most of his appearances have gone well. Some have not.
The ones that don't go well stick with him more than most, and he realized over the off-season that to be successful he needs to get past the setbacks quicker. Repeated failure over one two-week stretch in May gave him stress and discontent.
His off-season goal was not to improve any specific aspect of his pitching, but rather his ability to accept failure. And he is confident he has improved.
"Regardless of what happens, my quality of my life's gonna be better," Morin said. "Because I've just killed myself before, and now I'm prepared. It's so hard for me to swallow. All I want to do is do well. That's all I care about. It hurts that much more when you've prepared so much and it doesn't work out.
"I just have to get over that. Because the people that are closest to me, they're still gonna love me."
Morin used to espouse the benefits of yoga for flexibility and breathing, which, he said, helped when games got tense. But yoga studios are not always available in his job, and he wanted something he could do daily.
So, he does breathing exercises each morning and before he pitches.
"Having the peace of mind to be able to center yourself really, really matters when there are runners on base," he said. "I have a pretty solid basis of mobility, movements and breath. I can continually have that as an anchor. If I can have some specific routine, I assume that will correlate to more consistency."
In his 2014 rookie campaign, Morin had a 2.90 earned-run average over 60 appearances, good enough to gather attention from an industry that had passed him over out of college. He was the 417th overall pick in the 2012 draft, but one of the first draftees to debut.
In 2015, his peripheral statistics improved. He struck out more hitters and walked fewer, but he sat out a month because of an oblique strain, and his ERA shot up to 6.37. He stayed at Huston Street's house over the off-season and worked to build up his core strength.
In 2016, he carried a 1.84 ERA into Seattle on May 14, then blew a four-run lead on three ground-ball singles and a walk, and struggled to deal with it. Soon, he was handling the 13th inning of a tie score against Houston. He hung a changeup and Carlos Correa hit it for the winning home run. His ERA rose to 5.48, and finished the season at 4.37.
"The difference between, 'Mike Morin was good in 2014,' and, 'Mike Morin was super — very — mediocre in 2016,' was the difference of one week," Morin said. "Once I really took a look at my season from an outing-to-outing basis, it changed my perspective. We get so caught up in, 'Oh, he has a 4.00 ERA, he's so average.'
"I had a bad week. Other than that, I had a good year."
Scott Radinsky, the Angels' bullpen coach, pitched in 557 major league games over 11 seasons. He believes in Morin's stuff, particularly the confounding changeup. But he has seen the struggle.
"I don't think he totally believes in himself yet," Radinsky said. "You just have to have enough confidence to know that you belong. When you stand out there playing catch, looking shoulder to shoulder at your teammates, you have to realize that your stuff plays.
"I don't know what comes first, the confidence or the success. I know they kind of go hand in hand."
Radinsky prefers to evaluate relievers by their percentage of inherited runners scored, not their ERA. Morin, too, is moving away from the statistic, and moving away from being so stressed out. He says he knows now that success cannot be attained by "force feeding."
And his coach knows what to watch: how quickly Morin regains equilibrium after his next bad outing. He hopes as soon as he gets to his car in the parking lot.
"The quicker you can stop it the better, however each individual handles it," Radinsky said. "Hard situations happen. It's life, man. This is just another form of it."
Albert Pujols on Monday ran the bases for the first time this year. Manager Mike Scioscia expects Pujols to make his Cactus League debut by the end of this week. … Infielder Luis Valbuena suffered a strained calf touching first base on his way to a double Thursday and will not play again until Friday or Saturday, he said. … Outfielder Cameron Maybin was scratched from the lineup Monday because of what the club called minor right shoulder fatigue. He had been the designated hitter in recent days.