Richards: Elbow feeling 'normal' during rehab work

Richards: Elbow feeling 'normal' during rehab work

CHICAGO -- Garrett Richards is looking forward to his next medical exam Monday, when the injured Angels right-hander will have another assessment done on the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow.

If things look good, Richards could get cleared to begin throwing a baseball again, something he hasn't done since being placed on the 15-day disabled list May 6 with a high-grade UCL tear. Rather than having Tommy John surgery right away, Richards opted to delay it and try stem-cell therapy plus rehab exercises.

"I'm just continuing to do my internal rotational stuff and staying on my lifting, and doing more exercises that simulate more throwing motions, and everything feels completely normal," Richards said Wednesday at Wrigley Field. "I don't feel any discomfort or anything. I'm doing a lot of weighted-ball stuff in a throwing motion, so that's added stress more than what a normal baseball would be, and everything feels totally fine. I'm hopeful that this works."

If Richards can begin throwing a baseball Monday, he will start trying to build his arm back to the point he can handle bullpen sessions. Eventually, he'd like to test it out in either an instructional league setting or even the Arizona Fall League.

Richards said the hope isn't to return this season, but rather to avoid missing all of next season. That would've been guaranteed had he undergone Tommy John already, which still remains an option if stem-cell therapy doesn't ultimately work.

If the Angels can avoid another pitching elbow needing surgical repair, it will be a welcome development. Left-hander Andrew Heaney, who also underwent stem-cell therapy for two months, ultimately needed Tommy John on July 1 in Los Angeles. Right-hander Nick Tropeano will undergo the surgery Aug. 16 in Los Angeles.

It will be a relief for Richards and the Angels if he can avoid having the same procedure, which would likely be performed by Dr. Neal El Attrache, who did Heaney's and will handle Tropeano's.

"We got the bad news on Andrew Heaney and now Nick Tropeano," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Getting some positive news for [Richards] would be great news for all of us, just from an organizational standpoint, but also from a personal standpoint of hopefully seeing a young pitcher heal up with conservative treatment that in the long run would hopefully be more beneficial."

Worth noting

• Scioscia will take a conservative approach initially with catcher Geovany Soto, who was reinstated off the DL after the game Tuesday and started behind the plate Wednesday. Scioscia said Soto could handle catching back-to-back days right away, but the manager won't ask him to do that to start out. The Angels' skipper said he will make sure to get both Soto and Jett Bandy enough playing time the rest of the season.

• Left-hander Brett Oberholtzer, who was claimed off waivers Tuesday from the Phillies, could join the Angels on Thursday in Cleveland for the start of a four-game series against the Indians. Oberholtzer will work out of the bullpen.

• Cory Rasmus, who had surgery July 6 to repair a groin injury, has progressed to playing light catch in his recovery process. Still, Scioscia said Rasmus is "a ways away."

Brian Hedger is a contributor to based in Chicago and covered the Angels on Wednesday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.