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Angels' Garrett Richards moves closer to return from knee surgery

Angels' Garrett Richards moves closer to return from knee surgery
Angels starter Garrett Richards throws during a spring training bullpen session earlier this year in Tempe, Ariz. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Garrett Richards took another significant step in his return from left-knee surgery on Saturday, throwing 30 pitches during his first live batting-practice session of the spring and saying he “felt great” afterward.

The hard-throwing right-hander, who ruptured his patellar tendon while covering first base on a potential double-play grounder Aug. 20, will repeat the workout Tuesday with an increase to 40 pitches and a break in between to simulate two innings of work.

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Richards, who went 13-4 with a 2.61 earned-run average in 2014, has begun light fielding drills, and once he is able to do those at full speed, he should be ready to pitch in a game. The Angels expect Richards to return by mid-April.

"Hopefully, he's seeing the light at the end of tunnel, but there are still some things we need to see from Garrett before we get him into a game," Manager Mike Scioscia said.

“He’s done some fielding drills, but not to the extent he needs. He needs to build stamina with more repetitions. I think he’s out of a full rehabilitation environment, and he’s trying to get into a normal spring training, where we’re introducing fundamentals and batting practice.”

Richards is wearing a compression sleeve on the knee, but he won't wear a bulky knee brace. He threw all of his pitches Saturday, showing good velocity on his fastball and decent command of his breaking balls.

“He threw me a couple of cut-fastballs that were like, ‘Wooh!’ ” said Angels outfielder Matt Joyce, who tracked pitches from the batter’s box but did not swing against Richards. “I can see why they call him the Bullet.”

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