With 69 games remaining, time is running out if the Angels want to change the direction of their season.
It’s already too late to change the narrative.
No matter what happens from now until the final out, 2018 will be viewed in the context of all their injuries, examined not unlike an X-ray held up to the light.
The latest hit arrived Wednesday when an MRI revealed damage to Garrett Richards’ right ulnar collateral ligament.
“I feel bad for him,” general manager Billy Eppler said. “But I know Garrett. I know Garrett’s outlook. And I know the drive within him. He’ll get through it whatever he ultimately decides.”
Richards was presented with two treatment options, one employing platelet-rich plasma and stem-cell injections and the other replacing the ligament surgically.
He now has to decide what path to take to dictate his future, which might or might not include the Angels, the only organization for which he has played.
As an impending free agent, Richards, 30, might have thrown his final pitch for the team that drafted him in the first round in 2009.
Surgery would sideline him until 2020. Eppler said the more conservative injection route could result in Richards returning for the final couple of weeks of this season.
His relationship with this franchise is such that Eppler spent a few innings with him in the training room after he was hurt Tuesday, “just to be somebody there to talk to.”
The news Wednesday was too familiar for the right-hander, who missed most of the 2016 season because of a damaged UCL.
In that instance, Richards chose the injection option. The ligament healed to the point where he was able to come back to pitch in 2017.
But he then suffered another injury — biceps nerve irritation — that he and the Angels maintain was unrelated to his UCL issue.
Richards becomes the eighth disabled Angel who could miss the rest of the season and the sixth pitcher to suffer UCL damage in 2018.
The team now has 14 players on the disabled list, one off the franchise record set a month ago.
Eppler, explaining that the Angels have studied both subjective and objective data, dismissed the suggestion that they have a larger issue with injuries given the number this season.
He also said the team has found no connection among the various UCL problems, noting that pitchers such as Shohei Ohtani and Blake Wood joined the Angels with preexisting conditions.
Ohtani, who has returned as a designated hitter, is scheduled to have his sprained UCL reexamined July 19. There is a chance he could be cleared to begin throwing again at some point this season.
The rookie was treated with platelet-rich plasma and stem-cell injections June 7. His ligament healed enough that he was OKd to resume hitting three weeks later.
Despite Richards’ latest setback, Eppler said he has not begun rethinking the potential effectiveness of treating damaged UCLs with injections.
“Every player is biologically unique,” he said. “I lean on the people that went to medical school, did residencies, have far more knowledge about this than I do.”
Because of his injuries, Richards started only six games in each of the previous two seasons. He was healthy enough to make 16 starts this year, though he recently spent three weeks on the DL with a hamstring strain.
The latest injury happened in the third inning Tuesday during a Nelson Cruz at-bat. After being briefly assessed by head athletic trainer Adam Nevala, Richards walked off the Angel Stadium mound and into the most uncertain of baseball futures.
Taken 42nd overall in 2009, Richards made his big-league debut not quite two years later. He had 13 victories in 2014 and 15 in 2015 before the injuries began to mount.
“I’m very disappointed for him,” Eppler said. “I’m disappointed for the rest of the players in that locker room, too, that have wanted to see him be our ace.”