When it comes to Garrett Richards, let's hope the third time is the charm. Even though he is just shy of his 25th birthday, Richards is now getting his third shot at securing a spot in the Angel rotation.
Despite a mid-nineties fastball and a wicked slider, Richards just hasn't ever been able to have the kind of success that many had forecasted for him. His previous stints in the rotation, which have only been a grand total of 12 starts, have been plagued by high ERAs, wimpy strikeout rates, concerning walk rates, ugly platoon splits and a few too many homers allowed. Given the small sample size, some of that can be forgiven, but there is enough evidence to suggest that Richards just may not be cut out for being a starter. He's now being given this one last four-to-six week stretch to audition for the gig. Despite his youth and promise, one has to figure that if he fails to impress once again, he's not going to get any other callbacks.
The pressure may be on Richards, but there are some real signs of hope stemming from Garrett's early work as a reliever in 2013. As a relief pitcher this season, Richards is finally flashing the peripherals the Halos had hoped to see from him in his previous work in the rotation. In the admittedly tiny sample of 4.1 innings of work, Richards has posted a 10.38 K/9, 2.50 BB/9 and completely shut down left-handed hitting. Again, I can't stress how small that sample is, but he has shown a smaller but similar spike in effectiveness in his previous stints of relief work. In a still small sample of 25.1 career relief innings, his K/9 is 3.5 strikeouts better in relief and he has shaved a full walk off his BB/9 rate.
What is more important that Richards' actual results though is how he is going about attaining them. One of the reasons that many failed starting pitchers are able to find success in relief is because they are able to simplify things. They can either reduce their repertoire, give more effort and focus or focus on one specialized pitch. It appears that the early success Garrett has achieved in 2013 has been a result of all three of those factors.