Angels' Garrett Richards moves closer to return from knee surgery

Angels pitcher Garrett Richards says he feels great after throwing live batting practice Saturday

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.

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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