OAKLAND -- The ebbs and flows of a season are inevitable, and for Mark Trumbo, a power hitter with a long swing, they're even more pronounced. But that doesn't mean he doesn't feverishly look to make adjustments with his swing.
Few are more analytical about that component than Trumbo.
"I want to be a productive player, so I spend a lot of time thinking about what I can do to be better," Trumbo said. "I do make quite a few adjustments. It might not always look like it, but I'm always thinking about how I can get better."
Trumbo's most recent one -- the one that had him riding three straight multihit games heading into Thursday -- involves him getting his foot down earlier and going back to the swing he deployed in his final Minor League season of 2010.
Trumbo preferred not to get into the details of that new swing, but lately, he's been unafraid to go the other way and, as a byproduct of getting the foot down earlier, has sacrificed some power for more contact.
"This is a nice combination, but ultimately what I would like to see is me checking off a lot of pitches that I can't get to," Trumbo said. "That's going to be a very good indicator to me."
It's been an up-and-down season for the right-handed-hitting Trumbo, who entered the seven-game road trip with a .250/.314/.476 slash line and a team-leading 102 strikeouts. But he's made noticeable improvements in his defense at first base and right field, he's on pace for another 30-homer season -- while currently leading the Angels with 22 -- and he's already surpassed his previous career high in walks, with 37.
"It goes in waves, like anything," Trumbo said of drawing walks. "I wish I was a guy who walked 100 times a year, but the reality is, I've had to work pretty hard to improve upon it. I'm trying to pick my spots for it."
Richards gets another chance in starting rotation
OAKLAND -- Garrett Richards has often said he's more comfortable taking the ball every five days as a starting pitcher, and his upside has always pointed in that direction.
Now would be as good a time as any to show what he can do in that role.
The Angels announced after Wednesday's game that Joe Blanton was going to the bullpen and Richards was replacing him in the rotation, starting against the A's on Saturday, despite serving as a reliever for the better part of the last three months. How long Blanton remains in a relative state of limbo and what ripple effects are caused by Jason Vargas' eventual return are unknown at this point.
All the 25-year-old Richards knows is he has a chance -- yet another one -- to prove he can handle the job of starting.
"I feel like this is an opportunity to go out and pitch and to show them what I can do," Richards said when asked if this can be somewhat of a tryout for 2014. "Every opportunity I feel like is an audition for a job, whether that be in the starting rotation or in the bullpen or even on the team. I'm just going to go out and pitch."
Blanton, who refused to speak to the media prior to Thursday's series opener at O.co Coliseum, has a 5.66 ERA in his first 20 starts with the Angels while leading the Majors in losses (13), hits allowed (157) and homers given up (24). Angels manager Mike Scioscia didn't disclose any details about his meeting with Blanton, saying only that the two had "a good conversation" and that the veteran starter "understands."
"Nobody works harder than Joe," Scioscia said, adding that the 32-year-old Blanton "needs to be taken off that treadmill of banging into a wall and just exhale a little bit."
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, who signed Blanton to a two-year, $15 million contract in December, declined to speculate whether Blanton would be a starter in 2014.
"Joe has had a rough year, particularly a rough April and a rough July," Dipoto said. "But there was a five-week stretch into May and the entire month of June when Joe pitched really well. We've seen it. We've seen it in pockets, we've seen it in singular starts, the different ways he can contribute when he's performing the way he can. The move is nothing more than trying to change it up, give the team a new look, a new feel, and just see if we can inject some life."
Richards' stuff has always had life; he's just never been able to put it together.
In 152 2/3 innings from 2011-13, he's posted a 4.78 ERA with a 1.46 WHIP and a surprisingly low 6.1 strikeout-per-nine rate. In that span, Richards has been given 16 starts -- towards the end of 2011, in the middle of '12 and in late April of '13 -- and posted a 4.92 ERA, very rarely showing glimpses of how good he can be.
How can he be better this time around?
"Just not be too fine," Richards said. "Just fill up the zone and attack guys. Just go right after them."
Gutierrez ready to play role in Angels bullpen
OAKLAND -- It had been a long 10 days for reliever J.C. Gutierrez, from the time the Royals cut him on July 14 until the Angels finally claimed him off waivers on Wednesday.
"It was a lot of time gone after I got designated for assignment," Gutierrez said. "I was thinking a lot and talking to my agent. He said, 'Be good, keep working hard and someone will claim you.'"
Familiarity eventually worked in Gutierrez's benefit. From 2009-11, he appeared in 143 games for the D-backs -- finishing 59 of them while posting a 4.62 ERA -- and Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto worked in that front office.
Dipoto likes Gutierrez's stuff -- a fastball that consistently sits in the mid-90s with a curveball and slider he considers above-average -- and was intrigued by his bounce-back 2013 season for a crowded Royals bullpen, where Gutierrez posted a 3.38 ERA in 29 1/3 innings.
On Thursday, the Angels guaranteed him a spot in their upstart bullpen, designating right-hander Billy Buckner for assignment in order to create room on the active roster. Gutierrez doesn't have a concrete role yet, but he's capable of pitching two innings at a time.
"I'm really happy to be here," said Gutierrez, who had Tommy John surgery late in 2011 and struggled mightily in the Minors in '12. "Jerry knows me from the Diamondbacks, and he told me he's happy to have me on this team."
• The Angels sent $360,500 in international slot bonus money to the Mets in exchange for two Minor Leaguers, outfielder Julio Concepcion and right-hander Andres Perez. Concepcion will be assigned to rookie-level Orem, and Perez goes to the Arizona Summer League. The Angels don't physically give the Mets any money; they simply have that much less to spend for the rest of this international signing period.
• Jason Vargas (blood clot in left armpit area) is closer to getting in a rehab assignment than Sean Burnett (left elbow impingement), but it's still "going to take a little more work for Jason," Scioscia said. Both continue to throw bullpen sessions.
• Peter Bourjos (right wrist) is still hopeful of being cleared to swing a bat on Saturday.
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.