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Richards faces hitters for first time since May

Garrett Richards pitches on April 20. He was shut down after pitching on May 1 because of a torn elbow ligament. He has treated the injury with stem cell therapy instead of Tommy John surgery.
(Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

Garrett Richards faced hitters for the first time in four months Wednesday afternoon at Angel Stadium. As most of his teammates crowded around to observe, he threw 20 pitches and broke two bats.

“I felt good on the mound,” he said. “The ball is coming out of my hand good. It’s got the same action as before, so that’s encouraging.”

Richards was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in May and was close to choosing season-ending Tommy John surgery. Instead, he opted for a stem-cell injection, and repeated imaging since has demonstrated improvement in the ligament. He resumed playing catch in mid-August and worked his way to throwing off a mound last week.

He will next throw two innings in Arizona Instructional League on Monday, then three innings and four before shutting down for the winter. If there are any complications or a tear is rediscovered, he has said he would soon undergo the surgery to ensure his health for the 2018 season.

Richards threw fastballs, curveballs and sliders Wednesday. He said he has scrapped the changeup he refined during spring training and does not plan on reincorporating it into his repertoire.

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“I’m just trying to be more conservative as far as the way I use my body to throw,” Richards said.

Richards, 28, was the Angels’ opening-day starter. If he is unable to pitch next season, the team’s chances of rebounding from a losing season appear minimal. They are counting on him.

“He looked good,” Manager Mike Scioscia said Wednesday. “These are just baby steps right now, but it’s an important first step. He felt great during the workout. We don’t anticipate him doing anything but feeling good in the next couple days.”

Twitter: @edmgonzalez

eduardo.gonzalez@latimes.com


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