Imagine a young pitcher, jockeying to remain on a major league roster, while still being completely blind to his role for the team. Los Angeles Angels jack-of-all-pitchers Garrett Richards has been used as a starter, long reliever, set-up man and closer since being called up to the major league club in 2011.
In his first two seasons, escalated ERAs and wild pitches were the norm for Richards. But since making two appearances for Los Angeles, an entirely new Richards has emerged from the bullpen. I can only imagine Richards looking at teammate Jered Weaver and asking himself; “what does he have that I don’t?” The answer: long hair and facial hair. Richards has since acquired both.
Richards made 30 appearances in 2012 for the Angels, including nine starts for a 4-3 record. He has the ability to pitch in any scenario for Los Angeles, and finally seems to have the composure to win battles with major league hitters. In the Angels’ opening series with the Cincinnati Reds, Richards has made two appearances, and has three strikeouts and zero runs allowed in 2.2 innings pitched. His combination of a 95 mph fast ball, followed by a devastating curveball, is completely fooling Reds’ hitters.
Los Angeles took risks on recent acquisitions Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton and are unsure how they will fit into the mix of the rotation. Luckily, if any of these pitchers don’t seem to fit in their role, Richards can be easily placed in their stead.
There’s no telling the Angels’ offensive lineup will produce this season, but the pressure on their bullpen to succeed has never been higher. With Richards ready for any situation, Los Angeles will have no trouble reaching the playoffs this season.
John Engel is a Pac-12 college basketball writer for Rant Sports and also works for ESPNLA 710 AM radio in Los Angeles. Follow John on Twitter: @engelsportsguy.