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Angels' Garrett Richards gets harsh welcome from Yankees

Curtis Granderson homers twice against the rookie and N.Y. wins, 9-3. But Manager Mike Scioscia says, 'You see the talent.'

August 10, 2011|By Bill Shaikin

Reporting from New York — Garrett Richards was 12 pitches into his major league debut, with none out and the Angels' pitching coach heading to the mound. Richards had walked the first two batters, and Curtis Granderson was coming up.

The 13th pitch was a wild pitch. Granderson hit the 14th pitch for a home run. Welcome to the big leagues, kid.

"I didn't have butterflies or anything before the game," Richards said. "When you step on the mound, everything hits you at once."

The New York Yankees hit him, and hard. They tagged him for six hits — five for extra bases — and six runs in five innings, handing Richards his first major league loss in a 9-3 rout of the Angels. Granderson batted three times against Richards, hitting two home runs.

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia would not say whether Richards would get another start or return to the minor leagues. Joel Pineiro, who has been demoted to the bullpen, made his first relief appearance since 2008 and gave up three runs in three innings.

Richards' first 16 pitches were fastballs. He maintained fastball velocity at 95 mph, and he rallied from his shaky start to mix in off-speed pitches and retire eight consecutive batters at one point.

"You see the arm," Scioscia said. "You see the talent. As he refines it, you'll see a very good major league pitcher."

Richards, 23, the Angels' top pitching prospect, was summoned from double-A Arkansas. There, he had given up two home runs in his last 55 innings. Here, he gave up two in five.

"After the [first] home run, I settled down a little bit," he said. "It's my fault. It's nobody else's fault.

"After the zeroes in the second and third inning, I looked around and said, 'You settled down a little bit.' The nerves went away."

The nerves were more than understandable. Richards never had visited New York, and here he was at Yankee Stadium, making his first major league pitch with Derek Jeter in the on-deck circle.

"You walk out there, and it kind of takes your breath away," Richards said. "It was fun making my first major league start here. You grow up watching all those guys play on TV, and being able to throw against them was a lot of fun."

There was an L by his name, yes, but there was a singular highlight in his memory bank.

"Probably the best thing that came out of it for me," he said, "was striking out Jeter."

That was his first major league strikeout. There will be many more, or, at least, so hope the Richards fans who watched from Section 226. There were 14 in all, including his mother, father, sister, girlfriend, agent and one of his youth baseball coaches.

The group flew in from Oklahoma on Wednesday afternoon. They'll stick around for a few days to see the sights, pinching themselves all the while that Yankee Stadium was the first sight they saw, and Garrett Richards was the pitcher.

"It really hasn't set in yet," said Richards' father, Tommy. "It's a childhood dream. Even if you're not a baseball fan, you know what the Yankees are."

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

twitter.com/billshaikin

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