TEMPE, Ariz. — Kirby Yates is hoping a new pitch can help him get off the Middle Reliever Merry Go Round.
Yates, a right-hander the Angels claimed on waivers last year, began throwing a split-finger fastball this spring, and so far it’s helped him to allow just one run in six innings, with seven strikeouts, in the Cactus League.
“So far it’s been pretty good,” Yates said. “It’s not just an experiment. It’s a weapon. The results have been good. I’ve been getting outs and swings and misses, a lot of uncomfortable swings.”
Yates said he learned a lesson on Thursday, when he let up on a splitter and hung it. It was crushed for a homer, the first run he allowed in the spring.
It didn’t detract from what has been an encouraging spring for Yates.
“He’s obviously in the running to win a spot in our bullpen,” Manager Mike Scioscia said recently. “He’s shown well so far.”
The Angels bullpen still remains relatively wide open. Cam Bedrosian and Andrew Bailey seem to be locks, with J.C. Ramirez, Mike Morin and Jose Alvarez — the only lefty — also seeming likely to make the opening day bullpen. That leaves Yates competing for one of the last two spots.
Yates, 29, has appeared in 98 games in the majors over the past three seasons, with the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees. His 5.25 ERA in those games is why he’s on his third team in three years.
“It’s the life of a middle reliever,” he said. “If you pitch well, you will stay. If not, you will be moved to another team. If you want to stay somewhere, you’ve got to pitch well.”
SEARCHING FOR CONSISTENCY
Keynan Middleton, one of the Angels most promising relievers, was told when he was sent down after Friday’s game that he needs to be more consistent.
“He has impact tools,” general manager Billy Eppler said Saturday. “He has special weapons. A lot of power to the fastball and a very good slider and a high degree of athleticism. If you have five days…