Richards maintaining his stuff

Richards maintaining his stuff

ANAHEIM -- Pitch No. 98 for Garrett Richards on Tuesday night was a 96-mph fastball that was called a ball, barely off the corner to make it a 3-0 count on Mariners left fielder Dustin Ackley, with the bases loaded, two outs and the Angels clinging to a one-run lead in the sixth.

Fifteen pitches later, Richards had recorded four more outs, escaping his only jam of the night, completing seven innings of one-run ball and putting his ERA at 2.52 through his first four starts of the 2015 season. He would settle for a no-decision, however, as Joe Smith took over with a 2-1 lead but was charged with three runs in the eighth. The Angels got a walk-off homer in the ninth from Richards' batterymate, debuting rookie Carlos Perez, to defeat the Mariners 5-4.

Richards struck Ackley out looking with three straight pitches, then pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning while throwing a season-high 113 pitches. Since returning from major surgery on his left knee, Richards has given up just eight runs (seven earned) in 25 innings, scattering 17 hits, walking 12 and striking out 19.

His command can improve, but the 26-year-old right-hander has proven he can maintain his stuff deep into his outings.

Nine of Richards' last 15 pitches on Tuesday were fastballs, and all were 95 mph or above.

"I worked extremely hard this offseason," Richards said. "I'm not surprised at anything that's going on. I knew as soon as I got hurt that I'd be able to return to my normal form. That's what I believed in my heart, and that's what I believed all offseason. That's the mindset I had all offseason, and now I'm starting to see the reward."

Worth noting

• After three straight games as the cleanup hitter behind Albert Pujols, Kole Calhoun returned to his customary leadoff spot on Tuesday. Scioscia hopes the move is permanent, because he likes having Calhoun, Mike Trout and Pujols at the top of his lineup. But it's contingent on others swinging the bat well.

• Veteran catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia cleared waivers and is now a free agent, but isn't considered a fit for the Angels. The organization is hopeful that Drew Butera will also clear waivers after being designated for assignment by the Angels on Monday. Butera can reject an outright assignment to Triple-A if he does clear, but that would mean he gives up his $987,500 salary.

• Hunter Green, the 19-year-old left-hander who was taken in the second round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, suffered a stress fracture in his elbow while throwing in extended spring training and could be out a while, Servais said. Green missed all of 2014 with back issues, but Servais expects him to pitch again before the end of the year.

• Organizational shortstops Eric Stamets (Double-A Arkansas), Roberto Baldoquin (Class A Advanced Inland Empire) and Jake Yacinich (Class A) are all out with injuries to their left shoulders. Baldoquin, out since April 22, is getting treatment in Arizona and could resume baseball activities this weekend.

• The Angels named their Minor League Players of the Month for April on Tuesday. Perez was top hitter, right-hander Jeremy Rhoades (3-0, 2.21 ERA, 26 strikeouts, three walks for Class A Burlington) was top pitcher and third baseman Kaleb Cowart (1.000 fielding percentage in 52 chances for Inland Empire) was top defender. Cowart is hitting .170/.228/.287, however.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.