Richards getting 2-seamer back to 2014 form

Angels right-hander wasn't comfortable throwing the pitch as much last year

Richards getting 2-seamer back to 2014 form

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The challenge of facing Angels right-hander Garrett Richards didn't merely boil down to catching up to a blistering fastball or adjusting to a devastating breaking ball. It was reacting to two upper-90s fastballs that moved in two completely different directions -- a four-seam fastball that cut away from righties and a two-seam fastball that sunk inside.

Richards lost the latter weapon last year, and now he's focused on getting it back.

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The 27-year-old spent most of the offseason working on re-establishing his two-seam fastball, and he went to it frequently in Thursday's spring debut against the A's at Tempe Diablo Stadium, one in which he gave up two runs on two hits and a walk in two innings in a game the Angels would win, 8-2.

"I threw some really good ones, started to get that feel back from 2014 of throwing it out in front and having it sink versus arm-side run," Richards said. "I feel comfortable with it right now. I think it's only going to get better from here."

The dynamic between the four-seamer and the two-seamer was a major weapon for Richards while going 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA in 2014 before rupturing his left patellar tendon. But Richards' two-seam-fastball usage dropped from 28 percent to 13 percent in '15, which he finished with a 15-12 record and a 3.65 ERA.

Knee surgery affected Richards' landing leg, which made his delivery feel "a little bit off throughout the whole year."

"There were games where I felt better than others, but it was just kind of a constant fight," Richards said. "It kind of [disabled] me from sinking the ball. The two-seamer would just kind of arm-side run."

In other words, Richards' two-seamer was tailing up and in to right-handed hitters as opposed to shooting downward. So Richards mostly went away from it, leaving him with basically only one fastball he could trust.

Getting the proper movement back on that two-seamer could be key to getting his numbers back to where they were two years ago.

"A hundred percent," Richards said. "When a hitter has to go up there and look for two different fastballs, I think it helps you out. I'm going to continue to throw it, continue to develop it. I'm comfortable with where it's at right now; I'm starting to get a good grasp of how to throw it and be consistent with it. It's come along."

Outlook: Richards, SP, LAA

Worth noting

Andrelton Simmons is expected to start at designated hitter on Friday and would presumably play shortstop on Saturday. Simmons didn't appear in the first two Cactus League games due to arm soreness, but he took part in all of the pregame defensive drills on Thursday morning. The Angels wanted to be cautious because it's early.

C.J. Wilson is expected to rejoin the Angels on Friday, after spending the past few days wife his wife, Lisalla Montenegro, as she gave birth to the couple's first child, a girl. Wilson hasn't thrown off a mound since experiencing shoulder tendinitis in a bullpen session on Feb. 20. Manager Mike Scioscia said "it's going to take him a little while to catch up."

• Richards got a first-hand look at Geovany Soto's odd technique throwing a baseball back to the pitcher. The veteran catcher falls to his knees upon lobbing the ball back to the mound, then swipes the dirt with his hand. Said Richards: "It's a little bit different, but he gets it back to me. That's the important part."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and Facebook , and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.