Culver City Observer -

Angels Are Optimistic as Season Begins


February 19, 2015

Mike Trout

By Mitch Chortkoff

Sports Editor

In this space last week I speculated that the San Diego Padres could be as good as the Dodgers this season.

A respected colleague, Lyle Spencer of went a step further. He included the Angels in a similar scenario which would give Southern California three special teams.

In evaluating the Angels I start with two names – American league MVP Mike Trout and 26-year-old pitcher Garret Richards.

After being runnerup in his first and second years with the Angels Trout became a unanimous MVP at the age of 25.

Richards suffered a season-ending injury August 20 in Boston, tumbling to the ground as he tried to cover first base on an infield hit.

Richards was little-known when the season began but compiled a 13-4 record with a 2.61 earned run average in 26 starts.

The Angels did well enough without him the rest of the season, concluding with 98 wins, the most of any major league team. But they were abruptly swept out of the playoffs by the Kansas City Royals.

It wasn't a surprise. Manager Mike Scioscia had a patchwork pitching staff without Richards and it caught up to him at the crucial part of the season.

Richards was told he wouldn't be able to pitch for six months.

"I targeted opening day of the 2015 season for coming back," he said.

Right on schedule, Richards threw a bullpen session last week, a major step in his recovery. It was only 20 pitches but it was a good beginning.

The Angels expect to go slowly and might not activate Richards for opening day. But it probably won't be much longer.

Although Jered Weaver is regarded as the ace of the pitching staff Richards had better numbers last season.

Scioscia saw it coming. In spring training the manager had told journalists that Richards had "nasty stuff."

A third important player is Andrew Heaney, a 23-year-old lefthanded starting pitcher who was acquired from the Dodgers in exchange for second baseman Howie Kendrick.

The addition of Heaney makes up for the absence of former Santa Monica High pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who underwent left elbow surgery last season after compiling a 5-5 record. He's on the way back too.

One Angel weakness is the lack of an experienced replacement for Kendrick but hey hope one of a batch of promising minor leaguers will emerge.

"We have greater depth at most positions, much more than we had one year ago," said General Manager Jerry Dipoto.

The Angels will take a good look at Richards in spring training which begins this week. They'll open the regular season April 6 at Seattle.


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