3/3/2014 7:45 P.M. ET
Richards always arrives in fine spring shape
Right-hander feels he's in midseason form thanks to early preparation
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When pitching coach Mike Butcher called Garrett Richards over the offseason to tell him Angels pitchers would be pushed harder from the get-go this spring, Richards had already been long-tossing.
The 25-year-old right-hander typically stretches himself out before he even arrives to camp, a big reason why his last two springs -- 3.54 ERA in 20 1/3 Cactus League innings in 2012, 1.45 ERA in 18 2/3 Cactus League innings in 2013 -- have been so effective.
"When I show up for Spring Training, I feel like I'm in midseason form," Richards said after breezing through three scoreless innings in his spring debut against the D-backs on Monday, giving up two hits, striking out two and walking none.
"We start out by throwing two, three innings, but basically I stretch myself out to that during the offseason anyway. So when I come in, and we start out early, it's really just me getting my work in. As far as the way I feel right now, I feel strong, feel comfortable, feel good."
This is a different spring for Richards, for no other reason than the fact that he doesn't have to win a job.
Richards solidified a spot in the Angels' rotation down the stretch last year, posting a 3.72 ERA in 13 starts. This spring, he's working on "trying not to be a max-effort guy" all the time, so he can conserve his best stuff for the later stages of the game.
But he also isn't taking anything for granted about his rotation standing.
"The last two years, I've competed for a spot, so I know what it's like to be on that end of the stick," Richards said. "I still have that same mentality that I do every Spring Training. Just because I'm in the rotation right now doesn't mean that I'll be in the rotation the rest of the year. So, I have to stay sharp to keep competing and continue to improve."
Jimenez hoping versatility leads to clear role
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There was a time, down the stretch in 2013 and in the early stages of the ensuing offseason, when it looked like prospect Luis Jimenez would have a chance to compete for the everyday job at third base this spring.
Then the Angels traded for David Freese, and now Jimenez is in the same position he's been for most of his time with the Angels -- without a clear role, and looking to help out wherever possible.
"It didn't get me down," Jimenez said of the Freese trade, which involved center fielder Peter Bourjos going to the Cardinals on Nov. 22. "You have to come out and play. [Freese is] an unbelievable player, MVP of the World Series and everything, so you have to expect that. I'm not going to say I'm mad that they did that. I'm just happy for the team, because we tried to get the best players so we can win."
Jimenez, ranked ninth among the Angels' Top 20 prospects by MLB.com, batted .260/.291/.317 in 110 plate appearances with the Halos last year, but missed a significant amount of time.
The 26-year-old Jimenez was out for nearly two months, from mid-June to early August, after sustaining a torn labrum in his right shoulder while diving back to second base on a pickoff play. Then, while with the Angels, his season ended on Sept. 7, when he re-aggravated his shoulder injury while trying to avoid the tag of then-Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
Jimenez didn't require offseason surgery. He spent the first two months rehabbing in Arizona, then stayed away from winter ball when he flew back to his native Dominican Republic, and says his shoulder feels just fine now.
He's been a third baseman his entire pro career, but if Jimenez stands any chance of sticking with the Angels out of Spring Training, he knows he'll have to be more versatile.
"The team is already made," said Jimenez, who went 2-for-4 with a run scored in the Angels' 3-2 win over the D-backs on Monday at Salt River Fields. "We have our team. It's a good team. Everybody knows who's the guy. My plan right now is just, whatever they need me for, I'll be available. If they need me as a catcher, I'll be there."
Frieri climbs back in saddle against D-backs
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Ernesto Frieri officially rejoined the Angels on Monday, three days after his wife gave birth to the couple's second daughter, Veronica, in Phoenix.
Pitching the fourth inning against the D-backs at Salt River Fields, the 28-year-old closer -- who posted a 3.80 ERA and converted 37 of 41 save chances in 2013 -- pitched a 1-2-3 inning, getting a lineout, a groundout and a flyout.
"I'm very grateful to the Angels -- [manager] Mike Scioscia, [pitching coach Mike] Butcher -- because they gave me the opportunity to take care of my family stuff," Frieri said in Spanish. "Now everything is squared away, and I'm just happy to be able to come back here again, and get back on the same page I was on. We're doing a lot of good work over here. Spring Training has been very good. I'm happy I'm pitching again."
• Mike Trout spent most of Monday morning in full uniform on the main field at Tempe Diablo Stadium, doing a promotion with Major League Baseball that's very similar to the one he was featured in last season, with Andrew McCutchen, Prince Fielder, Jose Bautista and several others. "It was fun," Trout said. "I like doing it."
• Corner infielder Ian Stewart was a late scratch from Monday's game against the D-backs at Salt River Fields. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he was "messing around with his daughter and got hit in the nose." Stewart was checked on by Angels doctors.
• Only two regulars -- right fielder Kole Calhoun and platooning catcher Chris Iannetta -- were in Monday's starting lineup. The rest of the everyday players -- minus Josh Hamilton, who's off crutches but still recovering from a strained left calf -- took part in an intrasquad scrimmage at Tempe Diablo Stadium in the morning.
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.