TEMPE, Ariz. -- Garrett Richards completed his final tuneup before the regular season in a Minor League game in Scottsdale on Friday, allowing two runs on three hits over three innings. Richards walked three, struck out one and threw 60 pitches, though he logged an additional 20 in a bullpen
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Garrett Richards completed his final tuneup before the regular season in a Minor League game in Scottsdale on Friday, allowing two runs on three hits over three innings. Richards walked three, struck out one and threw 60 pitches, though he logged an additional 20 in a bullpen session after departing the game.
"I felt good," Richards said. "This is the part of spring when everything comes together. I felt really good on the mound, put some at-bats together. I'm ready to go."
The Angels decided to have Richards pitch in a Minor League game rather than start their 4-2 loss to the A's at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Friday, as they will play their first regular-season series in Oakland. Richards, who posted a 2.84 ERA and struck out 14 batters over 12 2/3 innings in four Cactus League outings this spring, is lined up to start Opening Day on March 29, but manager Mike Scioscia has not made any official announcements about the club's rotation order to start the season.
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Still, Richards is the most logical candidate for the assignment, as he is arguably the club's most talented pitcher and is finally healthy after missing most of the last two seasons with right arm injuries.
"Hopefully, he's going to be throwing the ball as well as he has all spring and [will] stay healthy," Scioscia said. "We're very confident he will. He's worked very hard. Hopefully everything is behind him.
"Getting that lead dog out there is important, and Garrett has the potential to be that."
The Machine launches a moonshot
Jose Pujols collected his first home run of the spring against the A's on Friday, crushing a 1-1 pitch from Norge Ruiz beyond the lawn seats in left field. Pujols, who is batting .262 in 16 Cactus League games this spring, had hit in two Minor League games this week to accrue more at-bats and fine-tune his timing.
"I think he made some adjustments," Scioscia said. "He's worked hard, and his timing is coming. Those last 15 at-bats, both up here and down on the [Minor League] side, have really paid off."
Andrew Heaney (left elbow inflammation) has been cleared to throw up to 90 feet, though he is expected to open the season on the disabled list. The Angels plan on carrying five starters on their Opening Day roster, and they won't need a sixth until April 12 in Kansas City. Heaney could be ready to pitch by then, but if he's not, Nick Tropeano or Parker Bridwell could be called up from Triple-A Salt Lake City to fill in.
"We'll see how it progresses and when he's going to get back on the mound," Scioscia said. "But he needs a couple throwing sessions and he'll be evaluated. He feels pretty good."
Tyler Skaggs will start the Angels' Cactus League finale against the D-backs on Saturday at Tempe Diablo Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. PT, and the game can be viewed on MLB.TV.
Shohei Ohtani and Tropeano are also scheduled to pitch against each other in an intrasquad game at 11 a.m. on the backfields of the Angels' training complex.
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.