The possibility of Angels right-hander Garrett Richards bouncing back from an injury-shortened 2016 to return to the team’s rotation next year is gaining steam. In a move that has paid off thus far, Richards decided early in the season to undergo stem-cell therapy treatment on his elbow instead of Tommy John surgery.
Richards threw his second of three scheduled instructional league outings Saturday and told the Los Angeles Daily News via text that “everything was great. Felt even better than last time.” The 28-year-old tossed 50 pitches, up from 25 in his first showing, and will conclude with a four-inning effort Thursday. Barring any issues, Richards will then receive another stem-cell injection and stop throwing until January, at which point he’ll begin getting ready for the 2017 campaign.
Back in May, it appeared Richards and fellow Angels starter Andrew Heaney would undergo Tommy John procedures because of elbow tears. The pair chose another route, though Heaney hasn’t been as fortunate as Richards to this point. Heaney ultimately went under the knife in July, which means he won’t come back until the tail end of next season at the earliest. A significant snag in Richards’ recovery could also lead to surgery and keep him out for 2017, but he’s currently on track to return to action after missing all but one month this season.
Before his year ended on May 1, Richards logged a 2.34 ERA, 8.8 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 34 2/3 innings. From 2014-15, Richards started 58 games and recorded a 3.18 ERA, 8.14 K/9 and 3.09 BB/9 across 376 frames. That type of production over a full season would have been a boon to this year’s Angels, who had one of the majors’ worst rotations. Going forward, penciling in Richards along with Matt Shoemaker, Ricky Nolasco and Tyler Skaggs would give Los Angeles nearly an entire rotation. Alex Meyer could grab the remaining spot, while Jered Weaver and Jhoulys Chacin are impending free agents, and Nick Tropeano won’t be available after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August.
Unless Richards experiences a setback significant enough for the Angels to non-tender him, he’ll make his third trip through arbitration during the winter and collect a negligible raise over his $6.43MM salary. Richards is under LA’s control through the 2018 campaign, after which he’s scheduled to become a free agent.