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Angels' Kevin Jepsen doesn't plan to change a thing

Jepsen came into the last two seasons trying some fresh ideas. They didn't work, although he finished strongly last season after beginning poorly. This spring he plans to 'keep it simple.'

February 20, 2013|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Angels reliever Kevin Jepsen loosens his arm during a workout at spring training last year.
Angels reliever Kevin Jepsen loosens his arm during a workout at spring… (Morry Gash / Associated…)

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Kevin Jepsen lost 20 pounds before 2011 and had a miserable season, compiling a 1-2 record and a 7.62 earned-run average in two big league stints and suffering a right knee injury that led to season-ending surgery in July.

The right-hander came to camp in 2012 focused on a new pitch, a two-seam fastball he thought would help keep hitters off balance. But he had a 10.29 ERA in his first nine games and was demoted to triple-A Salt Lake on June 4.

Jepsen was recalled July 5 and had a 1.67 ERA in 40 games to finish with a 3-2 record and 3.02 ERA. So what's his plan going into this season?

"I'm keeping it simple," he said. "Last year, from the time I came back up, everything was great. I just want to pick up where I left off. No change. I've done that. I'm over it."

Jepsen, a burly 6-foot-3, 240-pounder, thought he was in the best shape of his life when he reported at 220 pounds in 2011, but the weight loss weakened his legs, and he lacked the drop-and-drive power he had in 2009 and 2010, when he was one of the team's primary setup men.

Early last season, as he tried to manipulate the grip of his two-seam fastball, the effectiveness of his 97-mph fastball, cut fastball and curve suffered.

"It was almost like I spent too much time on the other stuff instead of getting what I need crisp," said Jepsen, 28. "I threw the two-seamer for the first month, but all my other pitches weren't the same. I went back to my three pitches and focused on attacking hitters rather than trying to fool them."

Jepsen, who had 18 holds and two blown saves in 2012, was one of the few bright spots in a bullpen that led the American League with 22 blown saves.

General Manager Jerry Dipoto moved to bolster the relief corps by signing former Philadelphia closer Ryan Madson and former Washington setup man Sean Burnett, and if the bullpen is at full strength, Jepsen may have to wrestle Ernesto Frieri, Scott Downs and Burnett for the eighth inning.

"With the guys we have, we're going to be good," Jepsen said. "We have a lot of back-end guys who can do the same job, which should make everyone more fresh down the stretch. No one person is going to get worn out."

Short hops

Madson, who resumed throwing Monday after a two-week layoff because of elbow soreness, threw 60 times from 60 feet Wednesday. "It was nice and easy, his timing looked good," pitching coach Mike Butcher said. "It was a step in the right direction." Madson is expected to open the regular season on the disabled list. … Rain and cold weather forced the Angels to the indoor cages for batting practice and bullpen workouts Wednesday, but they are expected to return to the field Thursday.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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