"I need a routine," Richards said. "I need a routine that's going to stay the same."
As a 24-year-old without a full year of service time and still two option years left, Richards hasn't had that luxury. He's been a solid Minor League starter since being the 42nd overall pick in 2009, posting a 3.34 ERA in 398 1/3 innings, but has been bounced around at the big league level.
Down the stretch in 2011, he made a couple of spot starts, went on the disabled list, worked out of the bullpen for most of September and started the finale. Upon being called up from Triple-A in late May last year, he was in the rotation for two months, returned to the Minors for less than three weeks in early August, then came back later that month to work as a reliever the rest of the season.
The back-and-forth, Richards believes, may have contributed to his 5.82 ERA in 17 relief innings to end the year.
"Honestly, I feel like my performance suffered because of it," Richards said. "If you look at the times when I've been on my five-day schedule and I knew I was going to pitch -- when I can get my lifts in and my running and I could be on my routine -- my performances were fine."
But he doesn't mind being a reliever, either.
"That's fine, too, I just want to know what I'm doing. That's it," Richards said, though he also understands his situation doesn't necessarily call for that. "It's difficult to be on one schedule and then be told to do another thing. I don't have a problem with adapting to it, but it is difficult. It's not an easy thing to do."
The Angels are going to stretch Richards out this spring, starting him Monday at the Mariners' facility, because they want to keep their options open.
But in some ways, they'd prefer him to win a bullpen spot -- because his stuff should play as a reliever and because it gives them the best 25-man roster heading into a championship-contending season.
Yes, it hurts their starting-pitching depth if Richards doesn't stay stretched out in the Minors. And yes, Richards' long-term future, perhaps as soon as 2014, is as a starter. But some members of the organization feel it'd be even more beneficial if he was simply in the big leagues already, in whatever capacity.
That's Richards' goal.
He also hopes his role can stay consistent throughout the summer.
"If they want me to go in the bullpen, then that would be fine, but I would want them to tell me," Richards said. "I don't want it to be both -- like, do this, but we still want you to do that."