Kevin Jepsen wasn’t himself.
He was only 90 percent of himself, because he entered last season 25 pounds off his normal pitching weight of 240 pounds. Trimming down generally is a good idea, particularly if you are a professional athlete, but Jepsen thinks it hurt him.
“I drop and drive so much. Last year, I didn’t really have my legs under me, so when I was dropping … it was a mess,” Jepsen said.
If early indications are to be believed, the Angels could have a key cog in their bullpen back. Jepsen led all Angels relievers in strikeouts in 2010, but struggled badly last year (7.62 ERA) and spent the majority of the season at Triple-A.
Sunday against Kansas City, Jepsen proved he has gotten his stuff back, perhaps with a little bit extra. His fastballs were all in the upper 90s, according to the stadium radar, and he threw one pitch past Royals catcher Humberto Quintero at 100 mph. Each of Jepsen’s first two appearances have been scoreless, a far cry from the way 2011 began for him.
“It was nice. I had that excited calm liked I used to have, knowing when I was out there that I wasn’t thinking too much,” Jepsen said. “It was like, ‘I know where I need to be. Here it comes.'"
Doctors performed arthroscopic right knee surgery on Jepsen last August, ending his season a bit early. He was only on crutches one day and began physical therapy within a week. Now, he not only feels he has the proper weight to drive the ball, but the legs under him to support all that momentum.
“Driving the ball downhill, through the mitt, is the biggest thing for me,” Jepsen said.
Teamed with closer Jordan Walden, Jepsen gives the Angels two of the hardest-throwing relievers in baseball. Teamed with lefty Scott Downs and right-hander LaTroy Hawkins, he could give the Angels a nice array of choices for the eighth inning of tight games.
While Jepsen may have re-discovered his fastball, the Angels re-discovered an important aspect of their team.