Posted on March 14 2016
TEMPE, Ariz. – Mike Morin’s forgettable season had been over for a couple weeks, and he was on vacation in Hawaii with his girlfriend last October.
But his mind was stuck in the nightmare.
“I was away from everything,” he said. “I’m in the most beautiful place in the world with my girlfriend, and I’m still jacked up.”
That’s when Morin really knew something was wrong, and it had nothing to do with his changeup or his delivery.
It was in his head.
The season had been “such a long, not good experience. You can’t just flip a switch. I was not handling it well, honestly.”
Since then, the Angels reliever turned to meditation and yoga along with the normal baseball training methods to try to get himself where he needs to be, on the mound and between his ears.
“I am thankful for (stinking),” Morin said, “because I learned a lot about myself. You can’t always be perfect.”
Morin represents a key piece to the Angels bullpen. The Angels don’t have an established reliever penciled in to the seventh inning, setting up for Joe Smith and Huston Street.
A year ago, after Morin had posted a 2.90 ERA as a rookie in 2014, he seemed poised to inherit Kevin Jepsen’s seventh-inning role.
But 2015 did not go as planned.
Morin had an ERA of 6.00 when he strained his oblique on May 23. That sent him to the disabled list for five weeks. When he returned, though, he still wasn’t healthy or effective. His ERA ballooned to 7.43 on July 28 before he was dispatched to Triple-A to get straightened out.
By then, Morin was a mess physically and emotionally.
“Before, if I put in the work, I was going to be good,” Morin said. “For the first time, I wasn’t good, and I was trying. That was so hard to comprehend. I had never experienced that.
“I wasn’t the best boyfriend. I wasn’t the best teammate. I wasn’t me.”
At Triple-A, Morin started to fix the mechanical flaws that had caused him problems, which allowed him to come back and have a good September in the majors. The trip to Salt Lake City was also when he discovered meditation, using an app on his phone.
Morin said he was obsessing too much over his struggles on the field, and he was losing sleep.
“You are trying to give everything you have to this, but you have to be able to get away,” he said. “I have a hard time not thinking about this … I don’t have any super big hobbies. It’s hard to get away.”
Focusing on his breathing, as the meditation forced him to do, was finally a way he could begin to relieve the stress of his performance.
The other half of the equation, though, was physical. The oblique injury was the result of Morin being too tight. He was pitching with restrictions that altered his mechanics. Specifically, he had trouble getting the ball to the glove side of the plate – away to right-handed batters and inside to lefties.
Morin discovered the answer to that issue about midway through the winter. His girlfriend had a coupon for a hot yoga class, and he joined her.
“I had done normal yoga seven or eight times,” Morin said, “but this was 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity for 80 minutes. I got absolutely wrecked. Legit exhausted, but when I got done I felt pretty good.”
For about a month, Morin continued doing hot yoga three times a week, in order to loosen up his body after throwing.
“It was a great way to flush everything out and target areas I had never really tapped into,” he said. “True core strength and true mobility. That’s where you can see significant gains. If you can squat 400 pounds and now you can squat 420, it’s not going to have a correlation to anything. But if you do something you’ve never done before, that’s where you’re going to see growth.”
Morin said he plans to continue the yoga even during the season, in order to maintain flexibility he needs to pitch.
Whether that translates into Morin again being as effective as he was in 2014 remains to be seen.
“I am not trying to recapture that,” Morin said. “I am better today than I was in 2014. I know that. I am not trying to recreate something that was a sample size of six months. I am a better person mentally and physically and emotionally than I was then.”
By Jeff Fletcher