Mark Mulder: ‘I know I’m ready’ …
Just to make sure his arm could stand up to the rigors of being a starting pitcher after so much time off, Mark Mulder pushed himself to new limits around mid-January, throwing a couple of 100-plus-pitch simulated games. Then he backed off, tossing 40-pitch bullpen sessions twice a week heading into Spring Training. And last Friday, he says, everything clicked for the first time.
“Now I know I’m ready,” Mulder said Friday morning, prior to the Angels’ first workout. “Absolutely. I’ve never thrown this much coming into a Spring Training, but I also don’t know if I’ve ever been this prepared, either, just because of everything I’ve done.”
Mulder, 36, last pitched in a competitive game on July 9, 2008, with the Cardinals. His last win came June 15, 2006. Shortly after that, his left shoulder – beleaguered by two major surgeries — pretty much gave out, forcing the two-time All-Star into retirement at only 31 years old.
Around October, though, Mulder – a runner-up for the American League Cy Young Award with the A’s in 2001 – found a delivery that worked for him. And ever since then, he’s seen gradual improvement.
“Every week, I can look back and go, ‘It’s better than last week,’” said Mulder, who’s competing with Joe Blanton and Tyler Skaggs for the last spot in the Angels’ rotation.
“I know the way the ball is supposed to come out of my hand, I know what it’s supposed to do. I’m excited to face some hitters and see the way they react to the pitches and some of the swings that they might take. That gives me a better idea of what I’m doing.”
* Angels reliever Sean Burnett is still in the early stages of his throwing program as he works his way back from August surgery in his left forearm. The 31-year-old lefty, limited to 13 appearances in his first season with the Angels in 2013, is only playing light catch at this point, but he hopes to start long-tossing “in the next few weeks” and is still targeting a return by Opening Day.
“That’s my goal,” Burnett said prior to the Angels’ first workout on Friday morning. “It’s been my goal since we started [the rehab process]. As long as I feel healthy and stuff like that, and the ball is coming out and I’m building arm strength, the mound shouldn’t be much of a problem. I’m sure it’ll be an easy transition.”
* Angels reliever Kevin Jepsen is fully recovered after an emergency appendectomy abruptly ended his 2013 season in late August. The 29-year-old right-hander, who finished the year with a 4.50 ERA in 45 appearances, was able to start working out and throwing again in late September, nearly two months earlier than he normally does, and won’t have any restrictions in camp.
“I just got right back into the offseason workouts as soon as I could, and I’ve been going for a while,” said Jepsen, who’s out of options for the first time this year. “I feel good.”