Scioscia isn't banking on Richards for Opening Day

Scioscia isn't banking on Richards for Opening Day

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Garrett Richards' recovery from knee surgery continues to progress steadily, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia admitted what has become increasingly clear on Sunday morning:

Richards will not be ready by Opening Day.

The 26-year-old right-hander, who ruptured his left patellar tendon on Aug. 20, is still about two to three weeks behind the other pitchers. Richards threw a 50-pitch bullpen session during Sunday's workout, marking his fifth time off the mound, but he is still at least a week away from taking part in pitchers' fielding practice and being completely unrestricted.

Richards has been targeting a return by Opening Day since he had the surgery and he hasn't backed off that ambition, saying recently, "That's not going to change, regardless of what anybody in here says."

Scioscia has spoken to Richards about a more realistic timetable.

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"He knows it," Scioscia said. "He knows it. He's not going to be able to rush it because our medical staff is not going to let him. There's a progression. He has to pass every plateau. It's great that he's going to shoot for being ready by Opening Day, he's working very hard to be ready by Opening Day -- but he's not going to be ready Opening Day."

If Richards indeed starts the season on the disabled list, the Angels' rotation will be Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker and three guys -- Hector Santiago, Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano -- vying for the last two spots. The likes of Jose Alvarez, Cory Rasmus, Drew Rucinski and Alex Sanabia are darkhorse candidates.

The Angels can go the first time through the rotation without a fifth starter because of a scheduled day off on April 9, after the season-opening three-game series in Seattle. If Richards is ready two weeks into the season, which seems realistic, he'd miss two or three turns.

"He still has some things that are important that he has to get through," Scioscia said. "We expect him to, but you don't know how he's going to come out."

Some additional notes from Sunday's workout ...

• Non-roster reliever Ryan Mattheus had been nursing a sore left groin for the last couple of days, but he is fine now, Scioscia said. Mattheus, a 31-year-old right-hander, posted a 3.60 ERA in 145 appearances for the Nationals the last four years. He spent most of an injury-riddled 2014 season in Triple-A, posting a 5.80 ERA in 34 games.

• The Angels are getting into fundamentals leading into their first Cactus League game on Thursday. They did bunt defense on Saturday and pickoffs/rundowns on Sunday. Scioscia hopes to work on defense of the double steal, cutoffs and relays, and double-play signs over the next three days. But there's a strong likelihood for rain on Monday.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.