TEMPE, Ariz. -- Just to make sure his arm could stand up to the rigors of being a starting pitcher after so much time off, Mark Mulder pushed himself to new limits around mid-January, throwing a couple of 100-plus-pitch simulated games. Then he backed off, tossing 40-pitch bullpen sessions twice a week as Spring Training neared. And last Friday, he says, everything clicked for the first time.
"Now I know I'm ready," Mulder said Friday morning, prior to the Angels' first workout. "Absolutely. I've never thrown this much coming into a Spring Training, but I also don't know if I've ever been this prepared, either, just because of everything I've done."
Mulder, 36, last pitched in a competitive game on July 9, 2008, with the Cardinals. His last win came on June 15, 2006. Shortly after that, his left shoulder -- beleaguered by two major surgeries -- pretty much gave out, forcing the two-time All-Star into retirement at only 31 years old.
Around October, though, Mulder -- the runner-up for the American League Cy Young Award with the A's in 2001 -- found a delivery that worked for him. He's seen gradual improvement ever since.
"Every week, I can look back and go, 'It's better than last week,'" said Mulder, who's competing with Joe Blanton and Tyler Skaggs for the last spot in the Angels' rotation.
"I know the way the ball is supposed to come out of my hand, I know what it's supposed to do. I'm excited to face some hitters and see the way they react to the pitches and some of the swings that they might take. That gives me a better idea of what I'm doing."
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.