SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Angels outfielder J.B. Shuck started the spring with only four hits in his first 23 at-bats and has a good idea why.
"I wanted to come in and prove that last year wasn't a fluke," he said. "I think I just put a little bit too much pressure on myself."
Shuck -- a scrappy 26-year-old left-handed hitter who was let go by the Astros in November 2012 -- enjoyed a surprising breakout season last year, winning a job off the Angels' bench in Spring Training and batting .293 while leading American League rookies in plate appearances (478).
That productive Shuck has re-emerged lately, with five hits -- including two triples -- in his last two Cactus League games.
Shuck recently watched video with new hitting coach Don Baylor and noticed he was "jumpy" at the plate and expanding his strike zone, all indications that he's trying too hard. Since then, he's "slowed it down, and just got back to getting on time and hitting good pitches."
Shuck has reason to put pressure on himself, though -- because he still has a job to win.
Despite his impressive 2013, it was Kole Calhoun who got an everyday job when center fielder Peter Bourjos was traded to the Cardinals over the offseason. And Shuck still has to beat out the likes of Collin Cowgill, Brennan Boesch and Matt Long to secure a job off the bench this spring.
"That's part of the game," Shuck said. "If things were just given to you, you wouldn't see guys play as well. I kind of like the challenge, I like knowing that I have to come in and compete. I can't really just sit back and relax in that sense. I have to come in and bring it every day, and if anything it makes you better."
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.