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Post-Tommy John, Kohn looks to secure role in 'pen

TEMPE, Ariz. -- For Michael Kohn, this spring is about regaining his form while recovering from Tommy John surgery, which sidelined him all of 2012. But it's also about showcasing, because there's a bullpen spot to be had -- probably two -- and Kohn wants to win one.

"That's the tough thing in this situation," Kohn said. "You obviously want to win the spot, but just going out there and being able to pitch again and perform the way I can, that will speak for itself."

Lately, though, it hasn't.

Kohn has been roughed up in his last two appearances, giving up a combined eight runs (three earned) on four hits and five walks in 1 1/3 innings -- and seemingly opening up the competition for the last bullpen spot.

With Ryan Madson set to open the season on the disabled list, the Angels appear to have five of their seven relievers for the Opening Day roster set: Lefties Sean Burnett and Scott Downs, righties Ernesto Frieri and Kevin Jepsen, and long reliever Jerome Williams.

One of the two openings could go to Garrett Richards, the young right-hander who has been a starter in the Minors, but could be ready to be a Major League reliever again in 2013. And Kohn looked like a favorite for the last spot, considering how quickly he progressed through his rehab and how much more explosive his stuff looked post-surgery.

But he's fighting to get past another hurdle right now.

"I worked so hard to get here this offseason, and now it's finally come," Kohn said. "Now it's time to execute the pitches. The first three outings were really good and the next two were really bad. It's a game of ups and downs, and I just have to figure out what works with me."

Kohn, who had more than 20 bullpen sessions under his belt by the time he arrived in camp, said the injury has nothing to do with his recent struggles.

It has a lot more to do with his slider.

Once he began throwing again, Kohn abandoned the split-finger fastball because it's a tough pitch on the elbow. So the 26-year-old right-hander started incorporating a changeup to give him something that doesn't break in on left-handed hitters, which he believes has come along nicely. The slider, though, is the pitch that sets up his mid-90s fastball, and he just hasn't had a good feel for it lately.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Kohn is also working on some delivery issues.

"Right now with nobody on he's got one, and with guys on he shortens it," Scioscia said. "He's trying to find a happy medium. Like a lot of guys who haven't pitched in a year, he's trying to find that rhythm and release point. At times he's thrown the ball well and the last couple outings haven't gone well. But he's throwing harder than at any time we've seen because he got rid of the little elbow issue."

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.

{"event":["spring_training" ] }
{"event":["spring_training" ] }