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Garrett Richards draws a crowd and ditches a pitch

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MLB: Chicago Cubs at Los Angeles Angels Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, there was an excitement at the Big A, among not the fans, but the players themselves; the buzz wasn’t during the rousing game against the A’s, either, but beforehand, when the stadium was empty, save for some groundskeepers, stadium attendants and a batting practice backstop, ready for use whenever he was ready to roll.

By “he”, I mean Garrett Richards, who was ready to get in some reps against some real, live batters (in this case, it was Shane Robinson, Nick Buss and Ji-Man Choi). Richards has been slowly working his way through the rehab, opting for stem cell treatment over Tommy John surgery, and as he progresses from warm up throws, to long toss, to throwing off a mound, to facing batters today, his teammates were growing more and more stoked to see their boy G-Rich on the mound again.

I mean, you know you’re a well-liked teammate when your rehab simulated session draws a crowd, right?

Jeff Fletcher of the OC Register had a good piece on it yesterday and the most important thing to note was that Richards felt good:

After the outing, he had the same optimistic tone he’s had throughout his rehab, in which he’s been hoping stem-cell therapy could help him avoid Tommy John surgery.

“Warming up everything felt good,” he said. “I felt good on the mound… The ball is coming out of my hand good. It’s got the same action as before, so that’s encouraging.”

“I’m just trying to repeat my delivery and locate the ball and pretty much establish fastball command,” Richards said.

One other thing of note in the article, though, was the fact that Richards has seemingly ditched the changeup altogether...for now, at least. The changeup has always been more or less absent from Richards’ pitching arsenal, though; he’s tried to incorporate it at other times in his career, with various grips, but nothing ever stuck.

Then, at the beginning of the 2016 spring training, he’d begun working on a changeup he liked that had more downward motion, than side to side.

He definitely enjoyed throwing it for awhile there; in the two months he was on the mound in 2016, he threw this new change 56 times. To get an idea of how little he throws a changeup, you’d have to go back to 2012 to find a season where he threw a change more than 56 times, but that was literally an entire season, not just two months. In between 2012 and this year, he threw it a little over 50 times total.

I almost wonder if this heavy interest in a new pitch, thrown at a higher rater than he’d ever done previously (he went from having the changeup being about 1% or less of pitch usage to about 10%), played any part in his UCL tapping out.

Most likely it was caused by a variety of things, but it’s a moot point, anyway, since he’s ditched the pitch...for now. If the past has taught us anything about Garrett, it’s that he could come around on the ol’ changeup once again in a season or two.

For now, just get healthy, G-Rich, and focus on staying healthy and nurturing that nasty, bread-and-butter fastball/slider combo. Sometimes, it really is all you need.

Next up, Richards will head to Arizona Instructional League to throw an inning of live baseball. Keep on doing what you’re doing, Garrett.