Mike Trout's promotion to the big leagues Friday has shifted the prospect spotlight at Salt Lake to right-hander Garrett Richards
The way he has been pitching, Richards was threatening to steal the spotlight anyway.
The Angels' No. 3-ranked prospect has gone 3-1 with a 2.64 ERA in five starts for the Bees.
"I'm throwing strikes early and often, keeping the ball down in the zone, changing speeds, moving the ball in and out," Richards said. "I'm just setting guys up and executing my pitches."
Richards entered the season with a professional mark of 27-8 with a 3.14 ERA in 55 starts and one relief appearance, racking up many of those wins in hitter-friendly parks and leagues such as Orem in the Pioneer League, Rancho Cucamonga in the California League and Arkansas in the Texas League.
The secret to being successful at all of those places and now Salt Lake is a simple one, Richards said.
"Just throwing the ball down in the zone and keeping guys off-balance," he explained. "Guys at this level, and even at the Double-A level, they'll sit and wait for that pitch over the middle of the plate. You've got to really be sharp. You've got to pitch down, you've got to pitch off the plate. If you leave it in and up, you won't be successful at this level."
Richards attacks opposing hitters with a potent arsenal of pitches. He throws a 94-95-mph two-seam fastball with natural sink. He also boasts a four-seam fastball that can reach 99 mph, an 84-89-mph slider and a sinking changeup that sits in the low 80s.
After moving away from his 12-to-6 curveball last year, Richards brought it back this season.
"I was just told last year they wanted me to work on developing three pitches, getting those three down before moving on to the fourth one," Richards said. "I feel pretty confident in my fastball, two- and four-seam, my changeup and my slider. Now I'm putting my curveball back into play.
It's been a good pitch for me so far."
Opposing hitters would agree as Richards has 29 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings. He has allowed just 28 hits and 11 walks, with only three home runs.
With the Angels struggling, there may be some temptation to have Richards join his former roommate Trout, but until that call comes, Richards said he will remain focused on keeping the Bees (14-9) in first place in the Pacific North Division.
"You try not to listen to anything that's going on as far as the club up top," Richards said. "But everybody has the same common goal, which is to win here and make it to the big leagues. If we're winning and playing good baseball, things will take care of themselves."
The Bees will open a four-game series in Fresno beginning Monday.
Jet lag: Brewers No. 1 prospect Wily Peralta returned to Nashville on Thursday after throwing just one inning of relief for Milwaukee. The right-hander's return to the Sounds was one to forget as he allowed five runs on four hits and four walks over five innings in a 7-1 loss to Iowa. For the season, Peralta is 0-2 in four starts, despite a decent 3.68 ERA while striking out 18 batters in 22 innings.
Back in the saddle: Oklahoma City right-hander Paul Clemens was activated from the disabled list and showed no ill-effects in an 11-5 win over Round Rock on Saturday. The Astros' No. 6 prospect allowed two runs on four hits and two walks over five innings to improve to 2-1 on the year. Clemens had been out for two weeks due to back spasms.
Plucked Peacock: Oakland's No. 3 prospect, right-hander Brad Peacock, found out the hard way that the PCL catches up to every pitcher eventually. Peacock (1-1) was hammered for seven runs on 10 hits and one walk in 4 1/3 innings at Reno. The 24-year-old, acquired from the Nationals in an offseason trade, had entered the game with a 1.42 ERA through his first three starts.