PHILADELPHIA -- Since his senior year of high school, Angels reliever Mike Morin would slide his index finger over his thumb and place it over the horseshoe of a baseball, then run his ring finger and middle finger between the two seams to create a devastating circle changeup that would dart away from right-handed hitters.
The problem was the lefties and the fact that you never want a changeup to run in on hitters. In those situations, Morin would pronate his right arm upon his release. Sometimes it would create that necessary tailing action against left-handed hitters, but sometimes it would still cut in, and often times it would get crushed.
The 23-year-old right-hander no longer has to worry about that.
Over the offseason, while throwing with fellow pitching prospect Mark Sappington, Morin often turned the baseball over so that his circle-change grip had his fingers above all four seams. And suddenly he had a second changeup, one that always tailed away and one he could use exclusively against lefties. And now he's showing how good his stuff plays at the Major League level.
"It's huge," Morin said. "It's been very effective, and I know it's not going to cut back into the hitter, and so it just gives me that confidence to throw it."
Morin was the Angels' Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season, then entered 2014 as the team's 10th-ranked prospect by MLB.com and got called up on April 27 -- and may not be going anywhere for a while.
Entering Wednesday, Morin had yet to give up a run in seven innings, spanning six appearances. He's scattered five hits, walked one and struck out seven, thanks in large part to two changeups that dart away from hitters and are anywhere from 15 to 20 mph slower than his low-90s fastball.
On a bullpen that's mainly composed of over-the-top power right-handers, a reliever who can command a changeup like Morin is a valuable asset.
"You mainly want relievers who get guys out," manager Mike Scioscia said, "but I think the blend of a bullpen is something to pay attention to."
Santiago wants another chance to start
PHILADELPHIA -- Hector Santiago's next turn was supposed to fall Tuesday night, when Triple-A callup Matt Shoemaker wound up pitching five innings of two-run ball in the Angels' 4-3 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
And don't think Santiago didn't realize it.
"There was no doubt I wanted to go into [manager Mike Scioscia's] office on Monday and be like, 'Hey, I'm ready for tomorrow,'" Santiago said before Tuesday's game. "The day he told me I was going to the bullpen, I wanted to say, '[Heck] no. Yeah, it's been a couple of bad breaks, and yeah, my numbers aren't great. But it's not that I can't do it.'
"I wanted to say, 'No, it's not happening. Let's go throw my Day 2 bullpen, I'm going to go out there and pitch.' But you respect him enough to be like, 'I know where you're coming from.' And I stepped back and took it for myself and thought, 'You know what, this could be a good thing.'"
Santiago -- 0-6 with a 5.19 ERA through the first seven starts of his Angels career -- is in the bullpen now, acting as the only lefty reliever and recording back-to-back outs in that role while in Toronto on Sunday. The club continues to call it a temporary move -- though Shoemaker will get at least one more start Sunday, against Rays ace David Price -- and Santiago wants another shot.
And for that to happen, he needs to get to his relievers' mentality, of trusting his stuff and not getting ahead of himself.
"I felt like this year, mentally, I was thinking 35 starts instead of thinking one start, game after game after game," said Santiago, who bounced back and forth between the rotation and bullpen his previous two season with the White Sox. "In past years, I was like, 'I'm starting today, but I might be in the bullpen tomorrow, so I'm just going to think about today.'
"I was going into this start, thinking about who I'm facing in five days. And I never did that before. Last year I went as hard as I can for as long as I can. I think I need to get to that."
Trout, Pujols may be trending upward again
PHILADELPHIA -- The Angels' 5-1 road trip happened almost despite Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, the two superstar hitters who went a combined 8-for-53 and saw their respective batting averages plummet.
But Wednesday's 3-0 win at Citizens Bank Park may have provided indications that they're going in the right direction.
Trout went 5-for-27 during the six games, striking out 10 times to up his American League-leading total to 50. But he talked to Pujols about his swing, made a key adjustment to get shorter and saw some results in the finale, lining out hard to straightaway center field and hitting a triple off the right-center field fence.
"I got more in my legs after that first at-bat," said Trout, whose batting average has dropped from .327 to .269 since April 29. "I felt long and I wasn't short like I usually am. I started talking with the guys, Albert, about getting into your legs a little more. And I felt good these last at-bats. I was a little jumpy in my last at-bat, but it's coming. It's right there."
Pujols finished the trip 3-for-26, but he went 2-for-5 and scored two runs in Wednesday's win, lining a double down the right-field line in the first and then smoking a single to left-center field in the third.
The key with Pujols is health, and the 34-year-old first baseman admitted that four days on the turf at Rogers Centre -- where he served as the designated hitter in two games -- was tough on his lower half, especially when followed by a quick turnaround for two National League games.
But he felt a lot better by the finale.
"It's tough," Pujols said, his batting average dropping from .299 to .264 since April 26. "I tell you what, I was great until Monday. Monday I was pretty beat up. I think Monday, I didn't feel comfortable at the plate at all. It was one of those things. It happens. Finally, it got to me. The turf. I felt like I didn't have my legs underneath. I was glad to get out of there for sure. I hate four-game series and I hate two-game series."
De La Rosa's rehab halted
PHILADELPHIA -- Dane De La Rosa's rehab has hit yet another snag. The latest came after four rehab appearances for Salt Lake in Triple-A, which were followed by three days of rest and prompted the Angels' power reliever to get reevaluated in Southern California on Wednesday as the Angels were wrapping up a six-game road trip in Philadelphia.
"He's not quite where he needs to be," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Hopefully he'll pick it up again."
Scioscia said he didn't know if De La Rosa was getting an MRI and wouldn't specify where the 31-year-old right-hander was ailing.
De La Rosa, coming off a breakout season in which he posted a 2.86 ERA in a team-high 75 appearances, was delayed in Spring Training because of a right forearm strain, averaged 88.3 mph on his fastball when he made his debut on April 12 -- it was 94.6 mph last year -- then went on the disabled list again with irritation in his right s/c joint.
De La Rosa worked his way back up to a rehab assignment, was appearing every other day at Triple-A from May 4 to last Friday and looked primed to join the Angels in Toronto last weekend. But he gave up a couple of runs in 1 1/3 innings in his most recent outing, and though he finished it, he hasn't shown enough progress.
"He hasn't quite moved forward at the pace that he can," Scioscia said. "Maybe it's just a matter of catching his breath. He'll be evaluated, and we'll see what next the step is."
• The Angels had only one night game and one day game in Philadelphia, which meant very little time for Mike Trout and Scioscia to visit their hometowns.
"Sometimes that can be a blessing," Scioscia said. "I haven't even had a cheesesteak here, so it's helped my waistline."
• First baseman-turned-outfielder Efren Navarro batted leadoff Wednesday, making him the fifth different table setter Scioscia has used since Kole Calhoun sprained his right ankle April 15. Scioscia wanted to maximize the amount of lefties in his lineup, but didn't want to pair them together because the Phillies have three southpaws in their bullpen.
• Angels catcher Chris Iannetta will host his inaugural area youth baseball camp at Villa Park High School on June 23 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. PT during an off-day. The camp is open to boys and girls from first to eighth grade and costs $79 ($63 when using a Citi credit card). More information is available at ChrisIannettaCamp.com.
• Raul Ibanez and Pujols reached personal milestones Wednesday. Pujols notched his 534th career double with a liner down the right-field line in the first, tying Lou Gehrig for 33rd on the all-time list. Ibanez recorded his 1,200th career RBI when his single scored Pujols shortly thereafter.
• Howie Kendrick, who hadn't missed an inning all season, was out of the starting lineup Wednesday. The second baseman said he was fine physically and that it was only a day off. Shortstop Erick Aybar was off Tuesday and started Wednesday.
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.