Recovering from an August knee injury, Garrett Richards has been a great story this spring. His bullpen sessions have been superb according to eyewitness accounts. Pitching coach Mike Butcher has certainly slept like a baby knowing that Richards is on the way to a full recovery from knee surgery.
But even with all the good news, Richards is still not going to be ready to take the mound for the Halos on opening day. He has yet to run at full speed. He has not yet passed through that dreaded Spring Training ritual of PFP - Pitcher Fielding Practice.
Before any of that occurs he is going to have to practice jumping off the mound and making the quick turns a pitcher does a dozen or more times a game - the very type of move he made when his kneecap buckled in a freak Boston accident. The coming rain in Tempe doesn't help with the progress of it all but the team and the doctors are pushing to make sure that his progress is monitored with precision and caution.
Look for Richards to appear in a few Cactus League games at the tail end of the Spring and to start the season in the starting rotation of one of the Angels minor league teams - but which one? The Inland Empire 66ers of the High-A California League would keep Richards close to home for monitoring while the Salt Lake Bees Triple-A squad would see him facing competition closer to the major leagues.
The current schedule that everyone seems to agree to sees Garrett pitching in Spring Training action at the end of April. If you have tickets to the final weekend in Tempe - April 27, 28 and 29 you will have a good chance to see him on the mound if everything in his maintains its current pace. Do not be surprised to see him in action during the freeway series against the Dodgers on April 2, 3 and 4.
If everything goes as planned as he rehabs in the minors while the season is still young, building strength to handle the task of starting a major league game, look for Garrett Richards to be starting for the Angels in April at home on the weekend of April 24, 25 or 26 against the Rangers. Are you excited yet?