02/27/11 6:44 PM EST
Angels envision bright future for Richards
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
Richards, signed as a first-round Draft pick in 2009, is getting comfortable on the fast track at 22. He showed his stuff in the Angels' Cactus League opener on Saturday at Tempe Diablo Stadium, walking the first man he faced and then setting down the next six Dodgers, the last two on strikes.
"After walking the first hitter," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "he got his bearings. He showed plus stuff. That's a start. He's a young kid, developing. You see the arm strength, and he can spin the ball."
Born in Riverside, about an hour east of Angel Stadium, Richards moved to Edmond, Okla., at high school age and attended the University of Oklahoma. This gives him a lot to talk about with outfielder Reggie Willits, a proud and vocal Sooner.
2010 Spring Training - Los Angeles Angels
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Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info
Richards has settled into the big league clubhouse a year after getting thrown to the wolves -- the Mariners, actually -- as a last-minute replacement for Ervin Santana last March in Peoria. After an infield hit by Ichiro Suzuki, the first man he faced, Richards walked three of the next five Mariners, getting two outs before departing.
"I'd only had 35 innings of rookie ball the year before," Richards said. "I just remember being super nervous. I'll never forget it."
Dividing time between Class A Cedar Rapids and advanced Class A Rancho Cucamonga, Richards was 12-5 with a 3.52 ERA in 2010. In 143 innings, he struck out 149 while walking 43.
Richards has good size at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and a smooth, easy delivery that bodes well for durability. His fastball is in the 94-97 mph range with movement on both the two-seamer and four-seamer. He backs the heat with a slider, curve and changeup.
"Fastball command always comes first," Richards said. "You work on your other stuff every day, looking to find an arm slot with each pitch. I just want to go out and compete, throw strikes. Overall, I want to keep getting better. I'm basically learning how to pitch."
His learning curve, so far, has been impressive.
Trout eager to make early statement
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia had 19-year-old Mike Trout back in the lineup, in center field, on Sunday against the Dodgers after playing right field on Saturday in Tempe.
Trout thanked the boss with his first hit of the spring, lashing a line-drive single in the first inning against Dodgers right-hander John Ely.
"I hit a ball hard [grounding sharply into a double play] in my second at-bat," Trout said of his debut on Saturday when he was hitless in two at-bats. "You definitely try to make a statement whenever you're given a chance. There's always going to be pressure on yourself playing in the big leagues. That's one of my goals for the future."
Trout, who turned 19 in August, figures to open the season at Double-A Arkansas. Scioscia wants to get the Millville, N.J., athlete as much exposure to the Major League level as he can before the veterans start tuning up seriously for the season opener on March 31 in Kansas City.
Scioscia won't hesitate to rely on youth
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia makes it clear he won't shy away from using a young pitcher in a vital role, such as closing games, if he shows he's more qualified than a veteran.
"You talk about experience, talent, upside," Scioscia said. "The bottom line is how guys are doing, what a player can bring. Just because a guy is experienced, it doesn't mean he's a better player. You're not going to evaluate a guy because of experience."
Fernando Rodney is the most experienced of the Angels' candidates to finish games, but the veteran right-hander knows he has to earn the role with performance.
"That's how it always is in this game," said Rodney, who worked a scoreless inning, striking out two and allowing one hit, in his spring debut on Sunday. "You have to prove yourself all the time."
Jordan Walden, Kevin Jepsen and Michael Kohn are among the young guns expected to push Rodney this spring. Veteran left-handers Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi were acquired as free agents to add bullpen depth, and both have closing experience to add to the mix.
Snider's passing saddens Scioscia
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Mike Scioscia was a teenager when he signed with the Dodgers, and he was still a wide-eyed kid when he met Hall of Fame center fielder Duke Snider for the first time.
Word of the passing of "The Duke of Flatbush" on Sunday at 84 left Scioscia with a sense of loss. The Angels' manager came to know many of the legendary "Boys of Summer" at Dodgertown.
"I met him in Spring Training when I was playing," Scioscia said, "and I did some fantasy camps with him. He was very humble for being one of the all-time greats. He had perspective and loved the game of baseball.
"What a nice man. This guy was so nice to all of us who went through the Dodgers' organization. He was a terrific individual."
Snider died at the Valle Vista Convalescent Hospital in Escondido, Calif.
Outfielder Vernon Wells is expected to debut in an Angels uniform on Monday at Tempe Diablo Stadium against the Athletics, who will bring ex-Angel Hideki Matsui along as their new designated hitter. Wells has been taking fly balls in left after spending nine full seasons and parts of three others in center for Toronto. Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu also are expected to make their spring debuts. ... Jered Weaver is due to make his first appearance of the spring on Tuesday at home against the Reds, who will counter with right-hander Johnny Cueto. ... Of the 64 players in camp, 21 are from foreign countries: seven from Venezuela, six from the Dominican Republic, two from Mexico and one each from Japan, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Australia, Netherlands and Canada. Mike Trout is the youngest at 19. Abreu, who turns 37 on March 11, is the oldest.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.