The Angels announced after Wednesday's game that Joe Blanton was going to the bullpen and Richards was replacing him in the rotation, starting against the A's on Saturday, despite serving as a reliever for the better part of the last three months. How long Blanton remains in a relative state of limbo and what ripple effects are caused by Jason Vargas' eventual return are unknown at this point.
All the 25-year-old Richards knows is he has a chance -- yet another one -- to prove he can handle the job of starting.
"I feel like this is an opportunity to go out and pitch and to show them what I can do," Richards said when asked if this can be somewhat of a tryout for 2014. "Every opportunity I feel like is an audition for a job, whether that be in the starting rotation or in the bullpen or even on the team. I'm just going to go out and pitch."
Blanton, who refused to speak to the media prior to Thursday's series opener at O.co Coliseum, has a 5.66 ERA in his first 20 starts with the Angels while leading the Majors in losses (13), hits allowed (157) and homers given up (24). Angels manager Mike Scioscia didn't disclose any details about his meeting with Blanton, saying only that the two had "a good conversation" and that the veteran starter "understands."
"Nobody works harder than Joe," Scioscia said, adding that the 32-year-old Blanton "needs to be taken off that treadmill of banging into a wall and just exhale a little bit."
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, who signed Blanton to a two-year, $15 million contract in December, declined to speculate whether Blanton would be a starter in 2014.
"Joe has had a rough year, particularly a rough April and a rough July," Dipoto said. "But there was a five-week stretch into May and the entire month of June when Joe pitched really well. We've seen it. We've seen it in pockets, we've seen it in singular starts, the different ways he can contribute when he's performing the way he can. The move is nothing more than trying to change it up, give the team a new look, a new feel, and just see if we can inject some life."
Richards' stuff has always had life; he's just never been able to put it together.
In 152 2/3 innings from 2011-13, he's posted a 4.78 ERA with a 1.46 WHIP and a surprisingly low 6.1 strikeout-per-nine rate. In that span, Richards has been given 16 starts -- towards the end of 2011, in the middle of '12 and in late April of '13 -- and posted a 4.92 ERA, very rarely showing glimpses of how good he can be.
How can he be better this time around?
"Just not be too fine," Richards said. "Just fill up the zone and attack guys. Just go right after them."