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Angels' Richards settles into rotation

The SportsXchange

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Garrett Richards is on the right side of the locker room at Tempe Diablo Stadium, the Angels' spring training home.

That is important to the 25-year-old right-hander, who holds a firm role for the first time in four major league spring trainings with the Angels.

"It's really reassuring," Richards said. "The past three big-league camps I've sat across the room. This big-league camp I'm sitting in the starting rotation side. It gives you confidence. This is ultimately where I wanted to be, right here."

Indeed, Richards is right in the middle of the Angels' projected rotation. He is penciled in as the No. 3 starter. The starting staff will be topped by right-hander Jered Weaver and left-hander C.J. Wilson, and lefties Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs are the front-runners for the final two slots.

Richards, Santiago and Skaggs have an average age of 24, and they own 69 major league starts between the three of them. The situation doesn't worry manager Mike Scioscia too much.

"We've got some guys that are young and some guys with not a lot of experience, but they have the experience of at least touching the major leagues and knowing what it's about," Scioscia said. "These guys have terrific stuff and terrific arms. They're ready for the challenge."

Richards is the most experienced of the bunch, but he said he expects a lot out of Santiago, Skaggs and himself.

"I think the young kid who's going out to try and prove something is a dangerous thing, personally," Richards said.

Last season, Richards made 47 appearances (17 starts) and finished 7-8 with a 4.16 ERA. After settling into a full-time starting role in late July, he went 5-4 with a 3.72 ERA in 13 starts.

NOTES, QUOTES

--3B David Freese, dealt from the Cardinals to the Angels in November, said he immediately turned the page following a rough 2013 season for St. Louis. "I turned it the day after the World Series," he said. "Later in the winter, it's easier to reflect on how cool of a season that was, whether you personally struggle or not." He hit just .262/.340/.381 with nine homers and 60 RBIs in 138 games, then struggled in the postseason, batting .179 with one homer and four RBIs in 17 games. Freese could hit as high as fifth in the Angels' everyday lineup.

--INF Chad Tracy, who turns 34 in May, needed two hits in his last game of 2013 to raise his average above .200 for the first time all season, so his eight-year major league career appears to be nearing its end. However, he is pushing back on retirement for now and is competing for a bench spot with the Angels this spring. "I didn't feel it in my heart," Tracy said. "I wasn't ready to go out yet."

--INF Luis Jimenez reported to camp several days after the position players' reporting day, as his arrival from the Dominican Republic delayed by visa issues. Jimenez will get repetitions at first base and in the middle infield this spring as he battles for a bench spot, manager Mike Scioscia said. "We're gonna see if versatility is something that can work in his favor," Scioscia said.

--RF Kole Calhoun, after little more than two months' worth of stellar play in the big leagues, proved himself enough that the Angels felt comfortable dealing slugger Mark Trumbo in the offseason to hand him a starting spot. Now, it looks as though Calhoun will be leading off ahead of star CF Mike Trout. Calhoun said his approach would change some if he is batting in front of Trout, as he will focus on getting on base.

--2B Taylor Lindsey has developed into the Angels' consensus top prospect since being selected in the first round of the 2010 draft. Manager Mike Scioscia said there is no doubt the 22-year-old is a future major league starter. It is just a matter of figuring out how soon he will be ready and whether that affords the Angels the opportunity to unload incumbent 2B Howie Kendrick. Lindsey, 22, batted .274/.339/.441 with 17 homers and 56 RBIs in 134 games for Double-A Arkansas last year.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "No comment. I like how a lot of people are writing it. It's pretty funny." -- CF Mike Trout, on reports that he and the Angels are discussing a six-year, $150 million contract extension. Angels owner Arte Moreno previously confirmed ongoing discussions, but Trout and agent Craig Landis refused to reveal any information regarding a potential extension.

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