TEMPE, Ariz. -- For Michael Kohn, this spring is about regaining his form while recovering from Tommy John surgery, which sidelined him all of 2012. But it's also about showcasing, because there's a bullpen spot to be had -- probably two -- and Kohn wants to win one.
"That's the tough thing in this situation," Kohn said. "You obviously want to win the spot, but just going out there and being able to pitch again and perform the way I can, that will speak for itself."
Lately, though, it hasn't.
Kohn has been roughed up in his last two appearances, giving up a combined eight runs (three earned) on four hits and five walks in 1 1/3 innings -- and seemingly opening up the competition for the last bullpen spot.
With Ryan Madson set to open the season on the disabled list, the Angels appear to have five of their seven relievers for the Opening Day roster set: Lefties Sean Burnett and Scott Downs, righties Ernesto Frieri and Kevin Jepsen, and long reliever Jerome Williams.
One of the two openings could go to Garrett Richards, the young right-hander who has been a starter in the Minors, but could be ready to be a Major League reliever again in 2013. And Kohn looked like a favorite for the last spot, considering how quickly he progressed through his rehab and how much more explosive his stuff looked post-surgery.
But he's fighting to get past another hurdle right now.
"I worked so hard to get here this offseason, and now it's finally come," Kohn said. "Now it's time to execute the pitches. The first three outings were really good and the next two were really bad. It's a game of ups and downs, and I just have to figure out what works with me."
Kohn, who had more than 20 bullpen sessions under his belt by the time he arrived in camp, said the injury has nothing to do with his recent struggles.
It has a lot more to do with his slider.
Once he began throwing again, Kohn abandoned the split-finger fastball because it's a tough pitch on the elbow. So the 26-year-old right-hander started incorporating a changeup to give him something that doesn't break in on left-handed hitters, which he believes has come along nicely. The slider, though, is the pitch that sets up his mid-90s fastball, and he just hasn't had a good feel for it lately.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Kohn is also working on some delivery issues.
"Right now with nobody on he's got one, and with guys on he shortens it," Scioscia said. "He's trying to find a happy medium. Like a lot of guys who haven't pitched in a year, he's trying to find that rhythm and release point. At times he's thrown the ball well and the last couple outings haven't gone well. But he's throwing harder than at any time we've seen because he got rid of the little elbow issue."
Hall's MRI reveals strained calf muscle
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Time keeps slipping away for roster hopeful Bill Hall.
Hall, obtained on a Minor League contract -- and at one time looking like a favorite for a reserve spot -- had been out since Feb. 27 because of tightness in his right quad. Then, during infield drills on Wednesday morning, as the 33-year-old was inching closer to a return to game action, his left calf tightened, causing what a Thursday MRI revealed to be a strained muscle.
Hall will visit with the team orthopedist, Dr. Lewis Yocum, for a followup on Friday and will stay away from baseball activities for the time being. It's unclear how much longer he'll be out.
"It's a little frustrating," Hall, 3-for-9 this spring, said just before leaving for the MRI. "I want to get out there. I had been playing well, and I did a lot of work this offseason to prevent this. But I guess there's another plan. Hopefully, it's not as bad as it could be and I could get back out there as soon as possible."
Hall didn't undergo an MRI when he sustained the quad injury, but manager Mike Scioscia said they opted to get an image this time because Hall had been bothered by the calf in the past. Hall ran the bases and got some at-bats during Tuesday's off-day, and before the setback was looking forward to getting in games at some point this week.
"It's unfortunate for him to go down at this time," Scioscia said. "The first course of action is for him to get healthy, and then we'll see what the dynamics are."
Hall is an XX(b) free agent, meaning the Angels basically have to make a decision whether or not to put him on the 25-man roster five days before Opening Day -- in this case March 26. They would owe him a $100,000 bonus to keep him in the organization, but not on the active roster, past that point.
Hall is among the most versatile players in camp, with the ability to play third base, second base, the outfield corners and, to a lesser extent, shortstop and first base. And he's definitely the most accomplished non-roster invitee, with a 35-homer season and more than 1,000 Major League games under his belt.
But he needs more opportunities to prove himself this spring.
"Hopefully I'm not out as long as it may seem, and hopefully I can come back quick and still have plenty of time," Hall said. "I have enough stress in my life. I try not to worry about if I've got enough time and putting more pressure on myself if I do get to come back. So whatever happens, I'm just trying to get healthy, and once I get healthy, I'm just going to play baseball like I was playing before."
Who's on first? Lately, it's been Jimenez
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Luis Jimenez got a gift from Albert Pujols on Thursday morning: His very own first base mitt.
Jimenez didn't have one, because basically all he's done since joining the Angels organization in 2006 is play third base. But he needed one, because Angels manager Mike Scioscia has been giving him looks there to open up his options.
Jimenez has only spent seven innings at the position this spring, and he'll go back to third base if he starts the season at Triple-A, which is the likely scenario.
But a little added versatility can't hurt, especially for a guy with no clear path to the big leagues.
"You have to do what they ask," said Jimenez, ranked sixth in the Angels' system by MLB.com.
"I can't say I feel comfortable. I'm just trying to do the best I can because I'm not familiar with first base. But little by little, I can get it. I just have to keep working."
The biggest adjustment for Jimenez, who played just one inning at first base in his Minor League career, is learning his assignment on cutoff plays. The 25-year-old had a solid season at Triple-A last year, batting .309 with 16 homers, 85 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 122 games.
But Alberto Callaspo is slated to be the third baseman over the next two years and Kaleb Cowart, ranked first in the Angels system, is slated to take over thereafter.
Versatility seems to be Jimenez's only chance to crack the big leagues with the Angels.
"You never know," he said.
• Ryan Madson threw another 20-pitch bullpen session at about 50-percent intensity on Thursday, his second since being shut down with elbow soreness on Feb. 1. Madson and pitching coach Mike Butcher said the Angels' potential closer felt good and came out of it healthy. Madson did the same thing on Monday.
• With Mark Trumbo slated to serve as the designated hitter on most nights, it could be beneficial for one of the Angels' reserves to be adept at first base, in case something happens to Albert Pujols in-game. Using Trumbo in that scenario would negate the DH. Scioscia said the team can counteract that by subbing Howie Kendrick there. Kendrick has appeared in 78 Major League games at first base, including two last season.
• Pujols started at designated hitter and ran for himself for the second straight day on Thursday. Pujols, who isn't expected to start at first base for at least another week, hit two singles and grounded out, putting his Cactus League batting average at .429 (6-for-14). He didn't have to do much running his first time on and came out for a pinch-runner after his third plate appearance.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.