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LeBlanc to hone breaking ball vs. other lefties

LeBlanc to hone breaking ball vs. other lefties

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Wade LeBlanc is the rare left-handed pitcher who struggles against left-handed hitters, and perhaps because of it, he is on his fourth team in four years. Opposing lefties have posted a .921 OPS against him in his Major League career, compared with .753 for right-handers. In the Minor Leagues last year, lefties had an .866 OPS, trumping the .778 clip righties put up.

LeBlanc has lacked an effective breaking ball, a pitch that would tail away from lefties rather than break in on them as the others do.

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And that is what this spring is all about.

"I have a fastball, a cutter and a changeup that I'm really comfortable with," said LeBlanc, who was obtained on a Minor League contract in November. "But I needed to really work on the way I attack left-handed hitters, because that's always been a weakness of mine, and I feel like I've really figured something out along those lines this offseason. So far in camp, it's been pretty successful."

LeBlanc, 29, was selected by the Padres in the second round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, posted a 4.54 ERA in 54 games (52 starts) over his first four seasons in the big leagues, was traded to the Marlins for catcher John Baker in November 2011, posted a 3.67 ERA in 25 games (nine starts) in 2012 and struggled mightily this past season.

LeBlanc had a 5.18 ERA in 48 2/3 innings in Miami and was claimed off waivers by the Astros in early June. He posted a 4.71 ERA in 49 2/3 innings in the Astros' Triple-A affiliate and gave up 10 runs (five earned) in 6 1/3 innings spanning four relief appearances in the Majors.

If Joe Blanton is traded or released this spring -- a strong chance -- LeBlanc could wind up as the Angels' sixth starter.

And considering clubs rarely go through a full season with only five starters, he could get plenty of chances in the big leagues.

"I think there's an opportunity," LeBlanc said. "But with that being said, it's all about production. If I happen to go Triple-A, I have to produce. If I happen to make this team, I have to produce. No matter where you're at, you have to put up some numbers to make some people take notice. And that's the whole goal, regardless of where you're at."

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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