The Angels’ strained, inflamed season reached a new level of absurdity Tuesday when their latest injury hurt not only them but perhaps another team.
Starting pitcher Garrett Richards was forced to exit in the middle of a third inning at-bat in a game the Angels eventually won 9-3 against Seattle.
The team announced that Richards has “right forearm irritation” with an MRI exam scheduled for Wednesday.
“You could just see the ball wasn’t coming out … of his hand the way we know it can,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’ll let the medical staff give us direction. He’ll have a study done and we’ll see what’s going on.”
Richards was limited to six starts the last two seasons because of a damaged elbow ligament and biceps nerve irritation in his right arm.
He avoided ligament-replacement surgery by undergoing the sort of stem-cell therapy the Angels are now using to treat Shohei Ohtani’s sprained elbow ligament.
When healthy, which hasn’t been a reality since 2015, Richards might be the Angels’ best starter.
General manager Billy Eppler, though never using the word “ace,” has said that Richards possesses that type of ability. Scioscia repeatedly has called the right-hander “the lead dog.”
The Angels’ shrinking chances of reemerging in the American League wild-card race hinge on many things, including Richards’ performance.
If they accept what appears to be their mounting fate and decide to become sellers at the trade deadline, an intact Richards would be a prime piece to move. He’s a free agent after this season.
Now, everything is suspended while awaiting the next medical update, Richards’ value as an Angel and a former Angel in question.
He was making only his second start since returning from the disabled list, where he spent 21/2 weeks because of a left hamstring strain.
Richards won his first start back last week, pitching 51/3 innings in Seattle in a 7-4 Angels victory.
He started Tuesday by giving up singles to Dee Gordon and Jean Segura, and a three-run home run to Mitch Haniger before getting an out.
Richards then set down eight of the next nine hitters he faced before Nelson Cruz came up with two outs in the third inning.
While throwing ball three — his final two fastballs reached 92 mph, a few notches below his normal velocity — Richards missed badly.
“After the first inning, he was OK,” Scioscia said. “Getting into the third inning, his velocity dropped and his crispness wasn’t there.”
Richards was assessed on the mound and then walked off.
His next turn was lined up for Sunday at Dodger Stadium in the Angels’ final game before the All-Star break.
The team could recall Deck McGuire to make that start or turn to Nick Tropeano, who is coming back from bursitis in his right shoulder. He’s scheduled to make a rehabilitation start Friday for Class-A Inland Empire.
Whatever the Angels decide to do, they shouldn’t be flustered. Scioscia and those above him have spent all season adjusting and adapting, the injuries swelling a roster that already has included 50 players.
This is a team that went through most of spring training with nine candidates for its rotation. Eight of them have spent time on the DL. The Angels have six disabled pitchers who are out for the season.
“It’s tough,” Kole Calhoun said of Richards’ situation. “Just hoping for good news. He’s been battling for the better half of a couple years. Hopefully, everything comes back all right.”
They did manage to erase their three-run deficit quickly Tuesday, scoring three times by the end of the second inning. They eventually buried the Mariners under 15 hits, highlighted by Albert Pujols and Calhoun home runs.