Salt Lake Bees: Garrett Richards continues to dominate on mound
By Martin Renzhofer
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Apr 15 2012 06:21PM
The stuff is electric.
For Garrett Richards, it is all about commanding that electricity in a big-league way.
He lost the battle this spring for the fifth spot in Los Angeles’ rotation. But with each start for Salt Lake, Richards is forcing the Angels to rethink their decision.
"I’m still young. Every day I’m still working on the pitching side of my game," said Richards, who improved to 2-0 as the Bees defeated Tucson 5-4 on Sunday at Spring Mobile Ballpark. "Mixing speeds, setting guys up, moving the ball in and out. Learning how to pitch instead of throw."
So far, in three starts for Salt Lake (7-4), the 24-year-old right-hander has been as good as advertised.
On Sunday, Richards held the Padres (3-8) to one hit through seven innings, striking out six and walking two. He continued to throw in the mid-90s into the eighth.
"Fastball command was really good today," Richards said. "My change-up was really good today. My slider was good today. My curveball was a little off today, but that’s a pitch I’m still working on."
Still, three out of four isn’t bad.
Richards crafted a game straight from the pitching manual — throw strikes and keep the batter off balance. Tucson hitters had problems all day barreling up Richards’ pitches. The result was a steady stream of weak grounders.
"I got bored out there sometimes," said Salt Lake center fielder Mike Trout about playing behind Richards. "Then he caught me off guard when the dude took a pretty swing and [the ball] went over my head."
Everth Cabrera’s double to left in the third was Tucson’s first and hardest-hit ball off Richards, a 6-foot-3 resident of Oklahoma.
"He’s definitely on his way," Salt Lake manager Keith Johnson said. "It’s not about getting Double-A hitters out or Triple-A hitters out. It’s about making the adjustments. It’s about getting big league hitters out consistently."
Undrafted out of high school, Richards pitched for the University of Oklahoma, improving and becoming stronger each succeeding season.
After leading the Sooners in wins (9) and strikeouts (85), Richards was drafted in the first round, 42nd overall, by the Angels.
His rise through the Los Angeles farm system was quick and steady.
After going 12-2 last season at Double-A Arkansas, Richards was called up by the Angels.
Richards’ debut was in the new Yankee Stadium. Understandably nervous, he was knocked around by New York for six earned runs in five innings.
"It was good for him to experience the big leagues last year," Johnson said. "He understood the adjustments he needed to make."
The evidence of that understanding is on the mound, where Richards has fanned 21 hitters and walked only four in 21 innings while fashioning a sparkling 2.14 earned run average.
"Those are the things I can’t control," said Richards about what team he pitches for. "But while I’m down here, I’m still trying to push the envelope. That’s all I can do right now."
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