Like the big blockers who perform essential functions but seldom are noticed until they're flagged for holding, relievers bridge the gap from high-profile starters to celebrated closers -- and frequently go unnoticed until they let leads and games get away.
So it is for Angels right-hander Justin Speier, a veteran who knows the drill. Two rough trips to the post -- one inning total, five earned runs on five hits, including two homers -- in losses at Tampa Bay brought questions about everything from his health to his delivery. Speier answered them at his locker on Tuesday after a side session with pitching coach Mike Butcher at Angel Stadium.
Speier said he believes the tuneup has him reoriented, returning his all-important "feel" to his delivery.
"It's hard to see on video," Speier said. "It's more of a feel [involving] weight transfer -- keeping more weight on my backside.
"It's the human element. We're creatures of habit, and at times we make mistakes. When a reliever has a bad game, it usually costs a team a game. It's a lot more noticeable. I hit a rough patch, and I'm working to make an adjustment -- keeping the ball down, staying in my lanes, locating pitches."
Basically, he said, his focus is on "making sure my direction is toward the catcher and home plate." Getting "side to side" with his "low, three-quarters [delivery]" can cause disruption and harm his location.
"My slider and fastball, usually I can locate either one of them with precision," Speier said. "I'm getting back to throwing my fastball like my slider -- same pitch, just a little different at the end."
Physically, he maintained, there are no issues, no concerns. These recent struggles are the result of mechanical flaws, he said, and every now and then a pitcher just needs to go under the hood with his pitching coach and straighten out a few things.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.