- Jim Caple, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Los Angeles Angels were 24th in the majors with a 4.23 ERA last season, leaving their pitching depth as much of an issue as Albert Pujols' plantar fasciitis was last year. Hoping to boost their pitching, the Angels traded Mark Trumbo to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Tyler Skaggs in the offseason.
Skaggs was one of the Diamondbacks' top prospects last spring, but he pitched poorly and didn't even make Arizona's roster out of spring training. He did get called up in late May and ultimately made seven starts, finishing with a disappointing 2-3 record and a 5.12 ERA.
He is determined to get back on track with the Angels and says one small but crucial difference he has made is lengthening his stride during his delivery.
"Last year just happened to be where I shortened up my stride and everything seemed to be out of whack," Skaggs said. "You couldn't tell there's a difference [in my stride] if you watched it on TV. Everything is very minimal. But the one thing I can say is I'm a lot smoother than last year, mechanics-wise. I'm not so herky-jerky. And that's due to me going back to how I used to pitch early, early in the minors, like in Double-A and the first year of Triple-A. I think it's working out for me.
"For me, it's noticeable because I'm the one doing it. For me, it feels drastic. I like it. I feel like I'm getting over the ball and throwing harder."
And that means he's back throwing in the 90s. "Last year was like 86, 87. Not the greatest," Skaggs said. "I don’t know what the last game was, but it definitely feels better than 86, 87. It makes every pitch a lot better. You feel like you're throwing the ball downhill more."
"His velocity has been really good, and his ability to repeat a delivery has progressed as the spring has gone along," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "During his bullpens and as he started to throw BP, he was just trying to find himself. But his last couple outings on the mound, he's thrown some bullets."
Skaggs, 22, allowed five baserunners and two runs in 2 1/3 innings in his first start this spring but held the Reds to one hit and no runs while striking out three in his last outing on Sunday.
Unlike what happened last year, the lefty has a good chance at cracking the Angels' rotation when the season opens. He said losing the fight for the fifth spot in the Diamondbacks' rotation last spring has changed his approach this year. "Once you lose a fist fight, that's pretty much the worst feeling there is," he said.
"Once you've lost out on a fifth-rotation spot, you come in with a different mindset," he said. "Especially last year, which was a disaster in spring training. I think I walked like 15 to 20 guys. I still had two walks last time, but they were tough at-bats [against Joey Votto] and not four-pitch walks. I think it's really helped me coming into this year with no expectations. Just come in and getting work in and staying healthy.
"It's a great situation for my career. I just have to come in here and capitalize on my opportunities."