Angels designate Billy Buckner for assignment, add J.C. Gutierrez.

Billy BucknerThe Angels designated pitcher Billy Buckner for assignment and added J.C. Gutierrez to their 25-man roster.

Gutierrez was claimed off waivers Wednesday. Buckner was 1-0 with a 4.67 earned-run average in seven games with the Angels this season.

Buckner started 12 games for Triple-A Salt Lake and two more for the Angels. He could have reprised the role Saturday, when the Angels decided to skip Joe Blanton‘s turn in the rotation. Instead, they gave the start to Garrett Richards.

So Buckner became the odd man out in the bullpen when the Angels had to add Gutierrez, who has far more experience relieving at the major-league level — 172 games to Buckner’s 20.

The Angels already designated Buckner for assignment once this year, in May, when they needed to add Kevin Jepsen to their roster. Buckner is out of minor-league options.

The Angels made one other move Thursday, exchanging an international slot bonus amount for minor-league outfielder Julio Concepcion and minor-league right-hander Andres Perez. Concepcion will be assigned to rookie-level Orem and Perez will report to the Arizona League.

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Garrett Richards will start for the Angels on Saturday in Oakland.

Garrett Richards

Garrett Richards will make his fifth start of the season Saturday against the Oakland A’s. (Getty Images)

Garrett Richards will start Saturday for the Angels against the Oakland A’s. Richards will take the place of right-hander Joe Blanton (2-13), who leads the major leagues in losses.

Blanton was 0-3 with an 8.84 earned-run average in his last four starts. Manager Mike Scioscia praised Blanton’s effort Tuesday but acknowledged the reality of the situation.

“He obviously doesn’t have everything together like he needs to,” Scioscia said. “He’s working hard with [pitching coach] Mike [Butcher] to find the consistency that he needs to repeat pitches, and it’s been a struggle for Joe.”

Richards has started four games this season, all in April, and relieved another 30. As a starter the 25-year-old from Riverside is 1-2 with a 5.54 earned-run average despite limiting opponents to a .229 batting average, .282 on-base percentage and .365 slugging percentage.

As a reliever, he’s been hit harder (.281/.332/.380) but has a lower ERA (4.10) in a much larger sample size.

Richards started nine games for the Angels last year (3-2, 4.42 ERA) before being demoted to the bullpen in August.

It remains to be seen how or if Blanton would fit into the team’s pitching staff with Richards in the rotation.

The Angels enter the four-game weekend series in a critical position. They began Wednesday 11 games behind the A’s for first place in the American League West, before beating the Minnesota Twins 1-0 to salvage the final game of their three-game series.

The Angels have 63 regular-season games remaining and 10 are against the A’s.

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Angels claim J.C. Gutierrez off waivers from Kansas City Royals.

The Angels claimed right-handed reliever J.C. Gutierrez off waivers from the Kansas City Royals and added him to their 40-man roster Wednesday. The Angels had one open spot on their 40-man roster, so adding Gutierrez brings them to full capacity seven days before the non-waiver trade deadline.

Gutierrez was designated for assignment by the Royals 10 days ago when Wade Davis was activated from the paternity list. The 30-year-old was under contract for $750,000 this season, is out of minor-league options, and becomes a free agent at year’s end.

With the Royals, Gutierrez was used in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings, almost exclusively in non-save and non-hold situations. He compiled a 3.38 earned-run average, eight walks and 17 strikeouts in 29 ⅓ innings spanning 25 appearances.
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