ANAHEIM -- Could young starter Garrett Richards provide a needy Angels bullpen with a major boost, perhaps something remotely close to what David Price did for the Rays that went all the way to the World Series in 2008? That remains to be seen, but Richards will no doubt get the opportunity.
The 24-year-old right-hander went into the year as the Angels' best starting-pitching prospect, but barring the unforeseen, he'll finish it in the bullpen, where he's been pitching late in games with mixed results since being recalled Aug. 22.
Richards, who has made four relief appearances since his recent callup, checked into last Thursday's game against the Red Sox with the score tied in the eighth, but he then gave up two runs and recorded only two outs. On Friday, he struck out the final two Tigers hitters to record his first big league save. On Saturday, he pitched 1 1/3 innings against those same Tigers, giving up three runs on three hits while suffering his first blown save. And on Tuesday, he pitched a scoreless eighth inning against the Red Sox, keeping the Angels within one to help set the table for a walk-off win.
"It's a big adjustment, obviously, for a guy who's been a starter to go to the bullpen, and Garrett's got to make a quick study of it," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Hopefully his arm will play in the bullpen to help us moving forward."
Pitching out of the bullpen has given Richards the freedom to go mostly with his electric fastball-slider combination and has allowed him to improve on pitching from the stretch, something Richards feels he needs work on.
Warming up quicker hasn't been an issue, Richards said. He'll usually start getting loose around the fifth inning just in case, and Richards has been able to draw from making four relief appearances during a short stint with the Angels down the stretch in 2011.
"Whatever they need me to do, as long as I'm here helping the team," said Richards, who posted a 4.42 ERA in nine Major League starts this year. "We all have the same goal, which is to get to the playoffs."