This was the last step. threw 40 pitches in a pregame bullpen session Saturday at Globe Life Park and deemed himself fit to start as soon as the Angels allow him on the mound.
As The Times reported Thursday, he is likely to return in Oakland on Monday or Tuesday, though the team has not made an announcement.
“Everything feels great,” Richards said. “I notice nothing different. Right now, it’s just a matter of being consistently on time with my delivery, which is normal, something you’re gonna deal with during the year anyway.
“I feel as fresh I can probably feel. I missed a lot of time.”
Richards missed most of last year because of a tear in his elbow, eventually healed by stem-cell injection. During , he spoke often of his desire to throw his pitches at slightly less than 100% intensity, so as to lessen his re-injury risk. Then he suffered nerve irritation in his biceps in his 2017 debut and stayed away from throwing for 100 days.
He said he found himself again testing himself during his two-inning start Wednesday for triple-A Salt Lake.
“Obviously, this is a bigger stage, but it’s nothing I haven’t done before,” Richards said. “I’m just gonna do my best, stay calm, execute pitches and go about my business. This is just another day for me.”
At first, Richards will likely be limited to 50 or 60 pitches. Because it’s September, the Angels can afford a short start. Come Monday in Oakland, they will be carrying at least 11 relievers.
“I feel more than confident that I can accomplish that, give them some quality innings,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’m ready if I didn’t feel like I was ready. So, I’m confident in what I can bring to the table.”
The idea, Richards said, is to stretch his arm out over the next four weeks so he is ready to potentially throw 100 pitches in the Oct. 3 wild-card game. If the Angels qualify for the playoffs, they will have to win that game to secure a spot.
Richards, 29, is the only current Angel pitcher to log a sustained stretch of dominance in the major leagues. He held a 3.18 earned-run average over 58 starts between 2014 and 2015, during which time he also dealt with a fluke tear of his patellar tendon in his left knee.
“I don’t intend on just throwing 60 pitches every start the rest of the year,” he said Saturday. “I intend on building off that every start. I’ve done a good job of keeping myself in physically good shape, and I’ve mentally stayed strong through this whole thing. I’m just ready to start competing again. I’m just happy to be playing baseball again.
“When stuff’s taken away from you, you feel kind of empty. I’m thankful that everything’s good to go now.”
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