What Garrett Richards remembers most from that fateful night in Fenway Park last Aug. 20 is the sound of the patellar tendon in his left knee rupturing as he caught a cleat and fell awkwardly to the ground while covering first base.
"It sounded like a Pillsbury biscuits tube, you know, when you open it and it explodes?" Richards said. "That's what it sounded and felt like, the release of pressure and the vibration going all the way up your leg when it popped. It was the sound of my knee unraveling. It was gross."
Richards speaks about the season-ending injury with a cool sense of detachment, almost as if it happened to someone else, because for him, it is buried in the past.
The hard-throwing right-hander will take the mound in Fenway Park on Friday night in the opener of a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox. It’s his first start there since suffering the injury, but he’s treating it like any other start.
"My injury is in the past — I don't care about pitching in Boston," Richards said Thursday. "It happened a year ago. I haven't thought about it one time. It's just another baseball game."
Won't it be a little eerie to return to the scene of the crime, so to speak?
"Not at all," he said. "I probably won't even think about it. Why would you think about negative stuff? My knee exploded. It wasn't positive."
Richards underwent surgery and a grueling seven-month rehabilitation that enabled him to return three weeks into the season. He is 3-2 with a 2.29 earned-run average in six starts, having regained most of the form that made him a Cy Young Award candidate before he got hurt last season.
Once he completed his first start of the season, giving up three earned runs and five hits in five innings of a loss in Houston on April 19, Richards felt he had put the injury completely behind him.
"I was able to get back out there and do what I've always done, what's familiar to me," Richards said. "Now, I don’t even notice it anymore. It's in my past."
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