Angels pitcher Garrett Richards knew the moment he fell awkwardly into the dirt after catching a spike near first base in Fenway Park in the second inning of an Aug. 20 game against the Boston Red Sox that his season was over.
“After I heard the pop and the crunching, I knew something wasn’t right,” said Richards, who underwent surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon in his left knee two days later. “I didn’t know what it was. Initially, I felt like I had a bone sticking out of my body. That wasn’t the case, obviously, but it kind of scared me.”
The first couple of days after surgery were tough for Richards, whose break-out season — the hard-throwing right-hander went 13-4 with a 2.61 earned-run average and 164 strikeouts in 26 starts — is a primary reason the Angels are well-positioned to end their four-year playoff drought.
But when Richards, on crutches and wearing a knee brace, joined the Angels for their annual team picture before Friday night’s game against the Oakland Athletics, he seemed in acceptance of his injury and the six- to nine-month rehabilitation process ahead of him.
“You go from a routine of going to the park every day to being stuck on the couch,” Richards said. “I went through the why-me phase. You kind of get past that. Now it’s time to move forward, address this, and get back on the field.”
Doctors told Richards, 26, that the success rate of his procedure is excellent, that “this is an injury you can come back 100% from what you were before,” Richards said. “It was a freak accident. I caught some misfortune. It’s something I’m going to have to deal with. I’m motivated to get back on the field.”
Richards, who shares a house with center fielder Mike Trout, has been watching the games on television, but he admitted it’s a little tougher to do so on the days he would have been pitching.
Wade LeBlanc got the first crack at replacing Richards and gave up six runs in 3 1/3 innings of Monday night’s 7-1 loss to Miami. The left-hander was designated for assignment Tuesday.
As of Friday afternoon, the Angels still hadn’t named a starter for Saturday night’s game against the A’s. Reliever Cory Rasmus and double-A left-hander Michael Roth are the leading candidates.
“Right now, we’re trying to piece it together,” Richards said. “It’s rough. It’s usually the day I work. It’s a little frustrating to see us struggle to fill that void, but we have great guys on this pitching staff. I think we’ll be OK. We’re playing good ball right now, we’re overcoming a lot of stuff, so I’m proud of the guys.”