Garrett Richards will make his return to the Angels rotation Saturday in… (Bob Levey / Getty Images )
OAKLAND — Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto said earlier this week that bouncing Garrett Richards back and forth between the rotation and bullpen “is not appealing,” but Richards doesn’t seem to mind.
The 25-year-old right-hander welcomed the move to replace struggling right-hander Joe Blanton in the rotation for Saturday’s game against the Athletics, even though it means moving from relief to starting for the second time this season.
“I’m excited,” Richards said. “I always thought I’d be a starter in the future and that I’d get some experience out of the bullpen. This is going to be a chance to improve that part of my game and kind of get back into my routine.”
Richards has had mixed results in two-plus big league seasons, going 4-5 with a 4.92 earned-run average in 16 starts and 2-4 with a 4.57 ERA in 55 relief appearances.
He opened this season as a late-inning reliever but replaced injured ace Jered Weaver in the rotation in mid-April and and made four starts, going 1-2 with a 5.44 ERA.
Richards returned to the bullpen in May, and his role shrank over the next three months, as setup man Kevin Jepsesn returned from a shoulder strain and Michael Kohn and Dane De La Rosa emerged as more attractive options.
But with Blanton dropping to 2-13 with a 5.66 ERA and a major league-high 24 homers allowed and no attractive starting pitching options at triple A, the Angels turned to Richards — again —for what could amount to an audition for a spot in the 2014 rotation.
“I feel like this is an opportunity to go out and pitch and show them what I can do,” said Richards, who mixes a 95-mph fastball with a slider, curve and changeup. “Every opportunity I feel like is an audition for a job. ... I’m going to try to throw strikes and fill up the zone, go right after guys and get people out.”
The key for Richards, Manager Mike Scioscia said, is controlling counts consistently enough to bring his secondary pitches into games.
“He has terrific stuff, and if he gets into good counts, it will play,” Scioscia said. “At times, that’s been a challenge, as it is for most hard throwers.”
The challenge for Blanton, who declined to comment about his demotion on Thursday, will be adjusting to an undefined bullpen role. He’s made only nine relief appearances in nine big league seasons.
“He has the ability to strike guys out, so his stuff could play in the bullpen,” Scioscia said. “There’s no doubt we all feel Joe needs to be taken off that treadmill of banging into a wall and just exhale a little bit.”
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