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Veteran Lyon facing unfamiliar battle for spot

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TEMPE, Ariz. -- Veteran right-handed reliever Brandon Lyon, 34, is on his first Minor League contract, and, for pretty much the first time in his 12-year career, he will have to battle to win a spot in a Major League bullpen.

"People are fighting to push you out of the game," Lyon said, "and you have to keep fighting to stay in the game."

From 2006-12, Lyon made at least 60 appearances in six out of seven seasons, compiled a 3.59 ERA and spent two seasons -- '08 and '10 -- as a closer. With the Mets last season, though, he struggled through a 4.98 ERA, a 1.63 WHIP and a 1.77 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 34 1/3 innings.

Lyon never went on the disabled list last year, but he had a back issue he did not know how to deal with, which might have caused his average fastball velocity to drop to 88 mph in 2013 from 89.7 mph in 2012.

"I didn't know how to maintain it; I didn't know how to take care of it at all," Lyon said. "It didn't bother me, but I wasn't able to go out there and be 100 percent. I was guarding it more than pushing it. So I pushed it to see how it goes [in the offseason], and everything felt great."

Now Lyon, obtained Feb. 10, is competing with at least nine other relievers for two spots in the Angels' bullpen. Asked if he would be willing to go to the Minors if he does not win a job out of Spring Training, Lyon said: "I haven't really thought about that. My focus is here, to get ready for a Major League season. When the time comes, I'll think about that then."

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.

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