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 - null
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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.