That deception -- hiding the baseball from the batter until the last minute -- is Trevor Reckling's defining characteristic makes all the sense in the world. The same word accurately describes his up-and-down status as a top-flight pitcher: Now you see him; now you don't.
Tabbed as the Angels' No. 4 prospect by Baseball America in 2010, Reckling -- simply "Reck" to his teammates -- dropped out of the publication's top 10 each of the last two years. The left-hander was left unprotected and was bypassed in the Major League phase of December's Rule 5 Draft. Any club could have grabbed him and stashed him on its MLB roster.
This after a season in which injury overshadowed improvement at Double-A Arkansas. Reckling compiled a 3.73 ERA in 17 starts and posted the first two complete games of his career, including a two-hit shutout the night before his 22nd birthday -- before a sore throwing elbow cost him most of July, August and September.
Having completed his rehab in October, where does he want to start his sixth -- and, ideally, final -- Minor League campaign? "I would be happier going to Triple-A [Salt Lake]," said Reckling, whose 8.53 ERA for the Bees in 2010 was the strongest sign of his descent. "I had a rough experience there last time, so I want to get a fresh start and go back to it. Clean slate."
To prepare, the Livingston, N.J. native has been living on Newport Beach and training in Southern California with a former Halos hurler. But not just any former Halos hurler: This fellow southpaw won 88 games in eight seasons for the same franchise, including his 19-8 mark in 1991.
MiLB.com: How are your offseason workouts going?
Reckling: I'm actually working with Mark Langston, out here doing some training and some physical therapy stuff with him at Angel Stadium.
MiLB.com: How did that come about?
Reckling: We met while I was in Arizona rehabbing in late September, and the last week that he was there, I ended up being there. We introduced each other. He knew who I was. I knew who he was.
MiLB.com: Being a Jersey kid in the '90s, did you see much of Langston during his playing days?
Reckling: I had seen him clips of him pitch when he was with the Mariners and then with the Angels. I started hearing his name more and more when I got drafted. He was actually trying to work with me for the last few years and just didn't want to mess with me because I was on the fast track. He kind of wanted to leave me where I was. But I'm glad that I met him; Mark has been a blessing in disguise to me.
MiLB.com: Did the 22-year-old Langston pitch similarly to the 22-year-old Reckling?
Reckling: Oh yeah, definitely. We talked about that. We have very similar minds. As he got older and more advanced in his career, he started pitching differently. When he was first coming up, when he started, we were very similar. We hide the ball very well, very good deception.
MiLB.com: What have you been working on with Langston?
Reckling: We have worked on the mental side. He's a great mentor. We talk about certain predicaments that you get into as a pitcher, what you're thinking on the mound.
MiLB.com: How about physically?
Reckling: We have been throwing off the mound, something I wouldn't be able to do in Jersey because it's cold -- I would be throwing indoors. Now, I'm long-tossing. More so with me, fine-tuning my mechanics and just letting me be me.
MiLB.com: So no grand changes with your posture on the mound?
Reckling: No grand changes. Just using my legs more.
MiLB.com: Taking into account the left elbow injury you overcame last season, how would you grade your performance at Double-A?
Reckling: I was happy with it, not as happy as I should have been, because the ultimate goal is to [win] the Texas League championship -- I wish I was there for that series -- and then get to the big leagues and come up with the guys you came up with.
MiLB.com: One member of your 2007 Draft class who has emerged in the bigs is the Tampa Bay Rays' Matt Moore. You both were both selected in the eighth round out of high school, were born a month apart, throw left-handed and are listed at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds...
Reckling: It's funny. I was talking to him the other day about that. It was kind of weird we were drafted the same time, the same year. I asked him about it, and he thought he it was kind of weird too.
MiLB.com: So the question lingers there: Are you the next Matt Moore?
Reckling: No, no, I just want to be myself. With the training I have done this offseason, I'm just ready to go out there and show what I'm about: Win and compete foremost. Everything else will take care of itself.