Coming Into His Own

Angels righty Garrett Richards turned a corner in his pro debut





ANAHEIM—Righthander Garrett Richards was nothing if not consistent in his three seasons at Oklahoma.

His ERAs: 6.30 as a freshman, 6.97 as a sophomore, 6.00 as a junior.

Richards did not pitch much in his first two seasons as a Sooner, but the results were similar when he moved into the rotation as a junior: lots of runs, lots of walks, lots of strikeouts.

The velocity was similar too. He throws hard, always has. In his last regular-season college start, he struck out 11. In the NCAA regionals, he threw his first complete game and struck out 10.

That was progress enough for the Angels to select him with the 42nd overall pick in the 2009 draft, one of two compensation picks the team received for Francisco Rodriguez. This was progress too: In his pro debut, he went 3-1, 1.53 in eight starts at Rookie-level Orem, with four walks and 30 strikeouts in 35 innings.

"He didn't have tremendous numbers in college," Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher said. "But he has the physical ability, and he has the stuff to go with it."

Butcher saw Richards for the first time at the Angels' January camp for pitching prospects. Butcher wasn't about to single out Richards, not after a camp that included such lively arms as Trevor Reckling, Will Smith, Andrew Taylor, Michael Kohn, Johnny Hellweg and Ismael Carmona.

Reckling, 20, was drafted out of high school in 2007 and is the Angels' top pitching prospect, a lefthander expected to start the season at Triple-A Salt Lake. Richards could be the top righthanded prospect, and he's expected to start the season at low Class A Cedar Rapids.

Richards, 21, stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 210 pounds, with what might already be the best fastball in the organization—95 mph, with regularity—and a solid curve, strong slider and decent change.

"He's a big kid, a tall kid, and he can create some angle and deception, with above-average stuff," Butcher said. "He's got a chance to be really good."

ANGEL FOOD

• The Angels announced they had invited 27 non-roster players to major league camp, a list headed by lefty Trevor Reckling, catcher Hank Conger and second baseman Alexi Amarista, their minor league player of the year last season.

• Of the 27 players invited to camp, the only ones not to play within the organization last year: righthander Travis Chick (8-7, 4.22 at Double-A Chattanooga for the Dodgers) and outfielders Cory Aldridge (.316/.361/.582 at Triple-A Omaha for the Royals) and Michael Ryan (.302/.379/.486 at Triple-A New Orleans for the Marlins).