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TEX@LAA: Richards tosses six innings of one-run ball

Before this season, Garrett Richards wasn't even a full-time starter for the Angels, having yet to post an ERA below 4.00 in parts of three seasons with Los Angeles. In 2014, however, an improved fastball has helped him post a 2.79 ERA, and he may very well be the team's most likely rotation member to make the All-Star Game over bigger names such as Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson.

"I know if you talk to Garrett, there are more important things on his plate than getting in that conversation," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "But the reality of it is, if he keeps going, there's no doubt he'll get some consideration."

Richards has stepped up his performance even more in four June starts, averaging 10 strikeouts per nine innings with a 0.67 ERA and 0.81 WHIP. After throwing at least 107 pitches in those four outings, though, Scioscia might be cautious in keeping his young stud out for too long against Minnesota.

Richards has pitched much better on the road in 2014, something to keep in mind as he'll be facing the Twins at Angel Stadium. He has a 4.05 ERA at home, where opponents have hit .265 against him. On the road, he's recorded a 1.84 ERA as opponents have just a .161 batting average.

Minnesota will oppose Richards with Yohan Pino, a right-hander who'll be making just his second career start on Wednesday.

The 30-year old had a solid debut Thursday against the White Sox, giving up two runs on five hits over seven innings with seven strikeouts.

"It was fun," said Pino, who had a 1.89 ERA in 14 appearances at Triple-A Rochester. "I waited 10 years. I feel happy. I didn't feel nervous. I just wanted to do my job."

Pino pitched in the Minors for 10 years before getting a shot in the big leagues, and catcher Kurt Suzuki said that the experience of his new batterymate showed.

"His presence on the mound was like he'd been up here doing this for a long time," Suzuki said. "Just to see his face after his outing, I went over and talked to him on the bench and he was so happy. That's the kind of stuff you like to see as a catcher."

It's those type of performances by unheralded players that have kept the Twins afloat in the AL Central despite tempered expectations heading into 2014.

"We have some young players mixing in with our group of veterans and it's a fun to watch," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "We've fought through some injuries but we've had some guys step up. We like where we're at. These guys are into it and we always feel like we're in a ballgame and have a chance."

Angels: Baylor returns to Halos as hitting coach
Angels hitting coach Don "Groove" Baylor officially rejoined the team Tuesday after breaking his right femur catching a ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day. Baylor, in his first season with the Angels after three in Arizona, was cleared to be on the bench and travel with the team.

"It feels like I'm going into the first grade, really," Baylor said after 12 weeks away from the bench.

Paul Sorrento took over as the interim hitting coach and Dave Hansen was the assistant hitting coach in Baylor's absence. Even without his physical presence, Baylor kept in contact with Scioscia "pretty much every day," said the skipper.

"Dave and Paul have been doing a great job, but Donnie's presence is certainly something that I know will help us on the bench and will help these guys in the cage and in the batter's box," Scioscia said. "So we're happy to have him back."

Twins: Suzuki heats up as ASG approaches
Even though Suzuki likely has too big of a vote deficit to overcome in the race for American League starting catcher for next month's All-Star Game at Target Field, he's spent the last couple series making a good case for himself as a reserve for the squad.

Entering Tuesday's clash against the Angels, Suzuki had a nine-game hitting streak and had reached base safely in 14 straight. He leads all AL catchers in batting average (.315, eighth-best in the AL overall) and on-base percentage (.372), while ranking second in hits (68) and doubles (15), and fourth in RBIs (32).

"He's a veteran," Gardenhire said. "He recognizes what pitchers are doing and can sit on certain areas of the plate and look for his pitch. He has a good plan. He watches a lot of video. And he has a great swing. It's short and he gets the barrel out there. But I think it comes from him preparing."

In Sunday's voting update, Suzuki squeaked by Boston's A.J. Pierzynski (810,050 votes) to take fourth at his position with 812,865 votes, but still trailed Baltimore's Matt Wieters by more than a million votes.

Worth noting
• The Angels have won nine of their last 11 season series against the Twins, but lost last season's.

• Seven of the Twins' last nine games have been decided by one run, with Minnesota going 4-3 in those contests. The other two were decided by two runs and it was 1-1 in those.

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