GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When new reliever Mitch Stetter finally returned from the bulging disk in his back that knocked him out for the start of Spring Training, it was March 17, and the Angels were 10 days away from breaking camp.
Now, with Opening Day a week away, he's one of three relievers -- along with sinkerballer David Carpenter and heavy favorite Garrett Richards -- fighting for two open spots in the Opening Day bullpen.
The reason: Stetter is a lefty specialist, in the truest sense of the word.
"They're not around baseball in general," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "That's why I know [general manager] Jerry [Dipoto] was excited to get Mitch when he had the opportunity."
Dipoto got Stetter on a Minor League contract in mid-November. The 32-year-old left-hander spent the entire 2012 season pitching in the Brewers system, with a 2.67 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP to go along with 11.9 strikeouts and 4.7 walks per nine innings.
From 2007-11, though, Stetter made 132 Major League appearances for the Brewers, posting a 4.08 ERA and holding opposing lefty hitters to a .194/.310/.335 slash line in 202 plate appearances.
Stetter only features a fastball-slider combination, and he isn't particularly overpowering. But he's a wiry 6-foot-5 and stands on the first-base side of the rubber and throws his pitches from an assortment of different angles, from three-quarters to something close to submarine.
"A lot of guys say it looks like the ball is being thrown from first base," said Stetter, who has faced righties and lefties in 2 2/3 innings this spring, giving up two runs on two hits to go along with three walks and three strikeouts.
"A lot of my pitching is deception."
The Angels already have two lefty relievers, in Sean Burnett and Scott Downs, but a guy who can come in for one or two lefty hitters could be beneficial considering who the Angels face to start the season.
The Reds are slated to have three lefty hitters in their starting lineup [Joey Votto, Shin-Soo Choo and Jay Bruce] and two lefty hitters off their bench [Jack Hannahan and Xavier Paul]. The Rangers have lefties David Murphy, A.J. Pierzynski, Mitch Moreland and Leonys Martin all slated to be in the starting lineup.
"Considering our bullpen, where it is, there's no doubt there's a possibility of a role for a guy like that," Scioscia said. "Especially with Kevin Jepsen still trying to finish things off, Ryan Madson not where he [needs to be], we'll have to have more of a situational look in our 'pen. We'll see where we are out of the gate."
Hanson on track after solid intra-squad start
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Tommy Hanson passed an important tuneup on Monday night, getting through a six-inning, 88-pitch intra-squad game that has him certain he'll have enough stamina under his belt for the start of the regular season.
"I'll be ready," said Hanson, the Angels' projected No. 5 starter.
Hanson gave up four runs (three earned) on seven hits, but he walked none, struck out nine, threw 60 of his 88 pitches for strikes, featured a good curveball and was sitting at 88-91 mph with his fastball.
The 26-year-old right-hander has one spring start left, then lines up to start at Rangers Ballpark on April 6.
"I felt better toward the end, once my pitch count got up," Hanson said. "That's a positive. It's just getting out there and pitching and getting more comfortable. I felt a lot more comfortable there at the end, and I feel like I'm on the right track."
Hanson's last start ended after three innings because he felt some tightness in his right triceps while warming up for the start of the fourth. The pain went away quickly, though, and Hanson said he "didn't feel it again."
Madson increases intensity during bullpen session
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Ryan Madson threw a 30-pitch bullpen session on Monday, ramping up the intensity to an estimated 70-80 percent. It was his fourth since getting shut down for more than a month on Feb. 1 and it brought Madson "the soreness I've been waiting for."
"I think I'm feeling what I should've been feeling from the start -- the good stretch, the good pain, not the shutdown stuff," said Madson, the Tommy John product who was shut down for more than a month because of elbow soreness, then felt some less-threatening tightness after a March 14 session.
"It just feels like I actually got in there and broke some of that stuff up. But it also feels like I can throw again today. That's what I feel now."
The 32-year-old right-hander, who will open the season on the disabled list, will travel with the Angels to Southern California for their exhibition Freeway Series against the Dodgers, but isn't sure if he'll go with them on their season-opening road trip through Cincinnati and Texas.
Madson is expected to play catch again on Tuesday and could throw his next bullpen session soon after. There's still no date set for him to get in some games, but Madson hardly ever throws more than 30 pitches in the bullpen when fully healthy. At this point, it's all about ramping up the intensity and bouncing back healthy.
Madson is still throwing only fastballs off a mound, but has occasionally thrown his changeup on flat ground to maintain a feel for his specialty pitch.
"For some reason, it's just always been there," Madson said. "I've been blessed with that."
• Most of the Angels' everyday players will take part in a workout at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Tuesday, then fly out to Southern California -- rather than play in the night game against the D-backs at Salt River Fields -- for a Wednesday workout leading into the three-game, exhibition Freeway Series against the Dodgers. Center fielder Peter Bourjos is among the few regulars who will stay.
• Wednesday's Cactus League finale will mainly be pitched by Angels relievers, with scheduled starter C.J. Wilson throwing in an intrasquad game in Tempe, on Thursday, putting him on five days' rest leading into his first regular-season start on April 3. Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson are slated to pitch the three Freeway Series games, respectively. Opening Day starter Jered Weaver will pitch Tuesday night against the D-backs.
• Kevin Jepsen gave up a run on a single, a stolen base and a couple of groundouts in the third inning against the White Sox on Tuesday. It was Jepsen's first Cactus League game since March 9 -- though he threw in a Minor League game on Friday -- because of a previous bout with right triceps tightness. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Jepsen, who has pitched in four Cactus League games, "should have enough work to be ready for the season if he finishes these outings" the rest of the spring.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and 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.