He would not say for how long, but Garrett Richards has known for some time he would be the Angels' opening-day starter. That the news had not been made public was a function of Manager Mike Scioscia's desire to keep information secret as long as possible.
Tuesday, as the Angels broke camp in Arizona and headed to Anaheim in preparation for the start of the regular season, Scioscia finally said it with certainty: Richards will start Monday night against Jake Arrieta and the Chicago Cubs at Angel Stadium.
"A lot of hard work went into getting to this point in my career," Richards said. "It's been a long journey, but it's been a fun one. I'm going to enjoy it."
Despite his beginnings as a wild right-hander at the University ofOklahoma, the 27-year-old Richards is the Angels' best starting pitcher. He has a 3.18 earned-run average over 58 starts the last two seasons. He hit 100 mph with his fastball this spring, and developed a changeup he says he will use much more than before.
Left-hander and fellow Oklahoma native Andrew Heaney will draw the second start Tuesday, matching up with Jon Lester. Scioscia declined to divulge the order of the Angels' other starters.
"With what we envision our rotation being and where guys are, it's a good way to open it up," Scioscia said. "The first two guys, we feel really comfortable that they're going to be an important part of our rotation and get us off on the right foot."
Richards' nod ends Jered Weaver's run as the Angels' opening-day starter. It lasted six seasons, and Weaver willingly ceded the role to Richards at the start of the spring, saying then that he "had a good run with it" and it was time to "pass the torch."
Asked whether Richards would be the opening-day choice on several occasions during camp, Scioscia skirted the questions.
Tuesday, he announced the starters for the exhibition Freeway Series against the Dodgers: Heaney on Thursday, left-hander Hector Santiago on Friday and right-hander Nick Tropeano, who will begin the season in triple A, on Saturday.
Santiago seems likely to face Texas in the third game of the regular season, and right-hander Matt Shoemaker probably will draw the fourth slot.
The fifth starter is likely to be Weaver, who remained in Arizona while other members of the opening-day roster headed to Anaheim. Weaver will pitch in a minor league game Wednesday.
Weaver has experienced neck and shoulder issues this spring, and the Angels could decide to put him on the disabled list to keep an extra relief pitcher or position player for the first week of the regular season. Or they could keep Weaver on the opening-day roster and start him in the third or fourth game. It remains unclear, and, even more, it remains impermanent. The Angels are expecting Tyler Skaggs and, perhaps, C.J. Wilson, to return early in the season.
"We'll go through the rotation one time, and then it'll get all jumbled around anyway," Richards said.
The Angels optioned right-hander Al Alburquerque to triple-A Salt Lake despite a strong spring in which he struck out 13 batters and walked one in eight innings. His demotion indicates that right-hander Cam Bedrosian or left-hander Greg Mahle will make the opening-day roster. … In a triple-A game Tuesday, Shoemaker pitched five innings as the starter. The Angels said he gave up 13 hits and eight runs, five earned. He struck out three and walked none. Scioscia said earlier in the day that Shoemaker had done everything the team wanted to see this spring.
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