Garrett Richards fights for an inside edge

Four days ago, it looked like Garrett Richards would be heading to Triple-A before Opening Day. Now, he might open the season as part of one of the best rotations in baseball.

Things change quickly when you're on the cusp of being a major-league player.

"Toward the end of last year, I got firsthand experience of what this is like," Richards said. "Once you play at that level, you don't ever want to go back."

Richards is fighting for the fifth spot in the Angels' rotation this spring and his chances got a lift when Jerome Williams strained a hamstring during Friday's workout, an injury that will cost him at least two weeks of camp. Richards, 23, pitched in seven games for the Angels last year, but this is a crucial spring for him to establish himself in their plans.

It tells you something that the Angels have given him the next crack at the rotation spot. He makes his Cactus League debut against the Chicago White Sox today.

"There’s no doubt that, out of all the guys we’re talking about for our fifth spot, his arm is the one that really jumps out at you," manager Mike Scioscia said. "But it takes more than that to get major-league hitters out. Hopefully, Garrett has moved in that direction."

UPDATE: Richards allowed two runs on four hits in the Angels' 6-2 win over the Chicago White Sox. Afterward, he said he has shelved his curveball because the Angels want him concentrating on three pitches -- fastball, changeup and slider. He also is looking to get as many quick outs as he can. Scioscia said Richards' "stuff looked great." Then again, that's a familiar refrain in spring training.