Richards Gets Real

Angels righty debuted on big stage





TEMPE, ARIZ.—When Garrett Richards made the jump from Double-A to Yankee Stadium for his major league debut last August, it was almost an out-of-body experience.

Now, he could be fighting for a return to that big stage.

"At the time, it didn't even feel real to me," Richards said. "Awhile after doing it, it kind of sets in that, 'Wow, that was kind of a big game.' "
Richards has emerged as a prime candidate to open the season as the Angels' fifth starter—a spot in the rotation that would not be needed until April 15 . . . at Yankee Stadium.

Journeyman righthander Jerome Williams appeared to have a leg up on the competition for that fifth spot when spring training opened. But Williams strained his left hamstring during a defensive drill and was not able to throw off a mound or appear in a game during the first two weeks of Cactus League play. Instead, Richards had pitched well, taking advantage of the opportunity to pull ahead of a pack that includes righthanders Trevor Bell and Eric Hurley, and lefthander Brad Mills.

"There's no doubt out of all the guys we're talking about for our fifth spot I think his arm is the one that really jumps out at you," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of the 23-year-old Richards, who went 12-2, 3.15 with 103 strikeouts and 40 walks in 143 innings for Double-A Arkansas last year. "But it takes more than that to get major league hitters out. Hopefully, Garrett has moved in that direction."

Richards said he has spent the spring working with Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher on getting a more "clean, consistent, repeatable delivery" that would lead to more consistent results.

ANGEL FOOD

• Nearly 22 months after breaking his left ankle, Kendrys Morales finally saw game action again. Morales' comeback took a significant step forward when he began playing in minor league camp games on March 16.

• Righthander Loek Van Mil was among the first cuts from major league camp and could be at a critical point in his career. The tallest player in professional baseball at 7-foot-1, Van Mil did not pitch well in a handful of Cactus League innings this spring. At 27, he was already removed from the Angels' 40-man roster last fall and was invited to major league camp as a non-roster player.