Reporting from Tempe, Ariz. — Not that Joel Pineiro needs extra motivation after signing a two-year, $16-million deal this winter, but the Angels pitcher would like to erase the perception that last season had more to do with the league he was in and the coach who mentored him than his ability.
The 31-year-old right-hander went 15-12 with a 3.49 earned-run average for St. Louis last season after Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan suggested Pineiro become a sinker-ball specialist.
Now Pineiro, who spent his first six big league seasons in Seattle, is transitioning from the National League, with its weak No. 8 hitters and bat-wielding pitchers, back to the AL, with its designated hitters and tougher lineups.
"Maybe I can use that as motivation to prove to people that I can still pitch and help my team out," Pineiro said Thursday after allowing one run and three hits in two innings of the Angels' exhibition opener, a 4-4 tie with the Chicago White Sox.
"I'm looking forward to seeing AL hitters again.... It could be more of a challenge. When the eighth hitter comes up in the NL, the pitcher is on deck and he'll be bunting.... But I'm not going to change my game plan. I will pitch to contact, get ground balls and take it from there."
Pineiro can't deny Duncan's impact.
"He got me to have faith and trust in my sinker, there's no hiding that," Pineiro said.
Relievers Kevin Jepsen and Scot Shields threw off mounds for the first time this spring on Wednesday, and both could pitch in games by next weekend, Manager Mike Scioscia said.
Shields, who missed most of 2009 because of knee surgery, threw 20 pitches and will throw again Friday. Jepsen, who had a career-high 54 2/3 innings last season and experienced shoulder tendinitis in September, threw a 30-pitch session, all fastballs, and said his arm feels great. The hard-throwing 25-year-old also knows not to rush himself.
"When you're younger, every time you throw off a mound you want to fire it," Jepsen said. "But now I'm taking my time, using my bullpen sessions instead of getting after it every time."
Reliever Fernando Rodney, slowed by sore shins, was examined Thursday, and Scioscia said he expects the veteran right-hander to be throwing off a mound within a week.
The Angels agreed to terms on 2010 contracts with six young players — Jepsen, pitchers Jason Bulger, Brian Stokes, Matt Palmer and Rafael Rodriguez, and infielder Brandon Wood. Reliever Rich Thompson, who spent most of the past three seasons at triple-A Salt Lake, had his contract renewed.