TEMPE, Ariz. -- Last spring, there was a short, scrappy, left-handed-hitting outfielder who wasn't on anybody's prospects lists, looked like a career Minor Leaguer, and then came out of nowhere to win a job off the Angels' bench with a blistering spring.
So this spring, Matt Long is trying to pull a J.B. Shuck.
If you haven't really heard of him, you're not alone. Long played four years at Santa Clara University in the Bay Area, wasn't drafted until the 30th round in 2009, and has spent his five-year pro career as somewhat of an afterthought in an Angels system that isn't deep with prospects.
But Long has hit at every level, is extremely versatile, and is having a great spring, with 13 hits in 24 at-bats.
"I just wanted to come in and play like I had a chance of winning a spot; whether I do or I don't, that's not up to me," Long said Tuesday morning, one day after going 4-for-5 and hours before going 3-for-4. "You have to control what you can control, and I'm trying to do that right now."
To win a spot as a backup outfielder, Long will have to beat out Collin Cowgill, who has played in 147 Major League games the last three years; Brennan Boesch, who played regularly with the Tigers from 2010-12; and Shuck, who came out of nowhere to post a .293 batting average while leading all American League rookies in plate appearances last season.
But Long has hit at every level, batting .305/.382/.446 in 2010, .299/.378/.502 in 2011, .282/.350/.462 in 2012 and .293/.371/.471 in 2013. He's shown some speed, compiling 100 stolen bases in that four-year span. He's got a little bit of power, averaging 15 homers the last three seasons. And, most intriguing of all, he's very versatile, with the ability to handle all three outfield positions and second base, which he picked up rather quickly in 2012.
"Maybe I don't do any one thing exceptionally well, but I like to say I have a pretty well-rounded game," Long said.
"That versatility is exciting," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It definitely helps his prospects of making our team."
Mulder, released by Halos, not giving up yet
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels released Mark Mulder on Tuesday, a transactional formality given his season-ending Achilles injury that, if nothing else, officially ended the 36-year-old left-hander's 2014 campaign.
Mulder's comeback hopes, however, are still alive and well.
"Barring a setback, or me not being able to pitch with my ankle for some reason, I don't see why not," Mulder said in a phone conversation. "My arm's still going to be the same next year."
The arm, the one that underwent two debilitating shoulder surgeries and forced him to retire in 2008, was what Mulder thought would fail him as he attempted a near-unprecedented comeback this offseason. The fact that it actually felt better than it has since his Oakland days 10 years ago, and that it was a fluky leg ailment that shut him down, makes Mulder want to give it another shot.
"Yes is the simple answer," Mulder said, "but until I see how this all bounces back and how I feel and stuff like that, it's impossible for me to answer it. I have no idea when I would even be able to start throwing. From what I understand, everybody's rehab timeline is kind of different on this."
Since rupturing his left Achilles tendon on Feb. 15, minutes before he would throw a bullpen session in front of Angels coaches for the first time, Mulder has spent his days sequestered in his Scottsdale, Ariz., living room, keeping his left leg elevated and counting down the days until the next minor hurdle.
"I realized that daytime TV is absolutely terrible," Mulder said. "I can't wait for Thursdays to come, where at least golf will come on during the day."
He can't wait until March 19, when he ditches the hard cast he's had for six days and puts on a second one exactly like it.
Then he'll anticipate April 3, when he gets fitted for a protective boot.
Then he'll count down every 10 days, as they gradually remove heel inserts until Mulder's foot finally goes back to being at 90 degrees.
And then, when he starts to walk again -- perhaps as soon as late May -- the rehab process will begin in earnest.
This past fall, Mulder found a delivery that worked for him, impressed in a late-November throwing session, signed a Minor League deal with the Angels, pushed his arm to new limits shortly after the new year began and entered Spring Training feeling like a return to the Majors was actually a real possibility.
He figures he'd give the Angels priority to sign him again, "but it's way too early to even consider something like that," the two-time All-Star said.
"My concern is it's now another year where I'm not facing hitters," Mulder added. "I'm not in that game situation. I don't know how I'll approach it, whether I might make a few starts at winter ball -- I really have no idea. But I do feel that as soon as I'm capable and ready, I would like to find a way to get into games somehow."
Former hurler Abbott shares message with Halos
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Jim Abbott, the one-handed pitcher who shined with the Angels, threw a no-hitter with the Yankees and became an inspiration for all, makes his living as a motivational speaker these days. Two or three times a month, he'll fly all over the country to talk to all kinds of organizations, from charities to schools to the Special Olympics.
His most memorable talk came Monday morning, when Mike Scioscia asked him to address the team prior to its workout at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
"I was nervous," said Abbott, who's in camp as a special guest instructor for three days. "It's a hardened, jaded Major League clubhouse. I remember when I was sitting there like, 'What's this gonna be about? More talking, more sitting in my chair.' So, it was real quick."
"I understand how hard Spring Training is. For a lot of guys in this room, this is a stressful time. It's learning a new pitch, it's fighting for a job, it's working on your swing. And sometimes what gets lost is that pristine grass out there, and these sparkling white pants, and these shoes that you're playing with, and these gloves that you're playing with. This is a point where you should stop and say, 'This is a great moment in time. No matter how hard I'm battling on the field, this is a great moment in my life.'"
Abbott, a product of Michigan who now resides in Corona Del Mar, Calif., was taken by the Angels as the eighth overall selection in the 1988 First-Year Player Draft and spent five and a half of his 10 years in Anaheim, compiling 87 wins and a 4.25 ERA from 1989-99 despite being born without a right hand.
Asked if he missed being around baseball, Abbott said: "I didn't really think I did until I got here."
But coaching baseball will remain a part-time role for him.
"I've got two girls who are growing up," Abbott said. "I know how hard the commitment, the time, is. I really like what I'm doing. I get a chance to share some of the same things that I learned here in a completely different environment, and that has been incredibly rewarding, in maybe a more appropriate way."
• Josh Hamilton continues to progress in his rehab from a strained left calf, which he suffered two weeks ago Tuesday. But Hamilton has yet to run full speed, with the Angels controlling his intensity, and Scioscia doesn't expect him to return to game action this week, saying the team will have a more precise return date this weekend.
• Dane De La Rosa (right forearm strain) is expected to pick up a baseball at some point in the next couple days. And though a return by Opening Day is still questionable, Scioscia is confident the Angels dodged a major injury, saying: "As far as this being something serious, that this guy's going to miss a season or something, that's not the case at all. This is something that seems very manageable."
• The Angels cut four additional players from Major League camp on Tuesday, paring their roster to 54. Catcher Jett Bandy, third baseman Kaleb Cowart, shortstop Eric Stamets and second baseman Alex Yarbrough were cut.
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.