Return of Angels pitcher Garrett Richards from knee surgery is imminent

Angels pitcher Garrett Richards could make his season debut Sunday in Houston or next week in Anaheim

Garrett Richards will find out Saturday when he will make his first start of 2015 for the Angels, but the right-hander’s return from surgery to his left knee is imminent.

“Everything feels great,” Richards said before Friday night’s game against the Houston Astros. “The knee feels good. It’s responding well. I’ve gotten up to 100 pitches twice now. I feel like I’ve done everything necessary to get back to this point. I don’t think I have any more things to check off the list.”

Richards threw in the bullpen Friday, and he could return as early as Sunday in Houston. Or, the Angels could start him Monday or Tuesday in Anaheim.

Richards threw 91 pitches in five innings of a triple-A game Tuesday, giving up four earned runs and seven hits, including a homer, striking out five and walking four. He fielded a bunt and covered first on a grounder, the same play he ruptured his patellar tendon on in Fenway Park last August.

“It was pretty exciting, actually,” Richards said of the play at first. “After I got done doing it, I was like, ‘Oh, everything is OK.’ It was just a routine chopper to first, and I beat the guy to the bag.”

As for his pitching Tuesday night, Richards said he “left a couple up. I hung an 0-and-2 slider to a kid and he hit it out. A fly ball dropped in the outfield. All the runs came with two outs. I have to be better at executing 0-2 pitches, but that’s just stuff that I have to do a little tweak on. It’s not because of my knee.”

Manager Mike Scioscia said of Richards, “There is no doubt he’s close. He’s going to touch up a couple of things in the bullpen and connect with our medical department because they have a lot of input on this too. We’ll make the best decision for Garrett. Because the best decision for Garrett in the long run is the best decision for us.”

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