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CHICAGO (AP) — Los Angeles Angels ace Garrett Richards hopes to be cleared to throw next week as he seeks to avoid Tommy John surgery.
Richards last pitched on May 1 and was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament five days later. He won't pitch again this season, but he's been undergoing stem-cell treatments in hopes of avoiding surgery that would sideline him through the 2017 season.
Richards was optimistic after a workout at Wrigley Field on Wednesday before the Angels faced the Cubs. He's been lifting and doing exercises with a weighted ball to stimulate the throwing motion.
"I literally feel like my arm is refreshed," Richards said. "Everything feels great. My shoulder feels nice and loose. I feel zero discomfort in my arm. Nothing even close to what I was feeling when I was put on the (disabled list) or anything."
The next step is an imaging scan Monday.
"If everything looks the same as it did a couple weeks ago or better than we start throwing an actual baseball on an actual field and doing actual baseball things," Richards said. "That would be cool."
Richards would first start throwing at 45 feet. He said the "true test" will be when he stretches out to 120 feet. If that goes well, it could to bullpen sessions next month and then a stint in the instructional or fall league.
"I've got to be able to go out and do my pregame routine, throw out of the bullpen and throw in a game a couple innings to simulate what it would be like in a game," Richards said. "I think once I accomplish that a couple times I think I'll have enough peace of mind to move into the offseason and continue with my offseason workouts and hopefully roll into next year fresh and ready to go."
The 28-year-old Richards was 1-3 with a 2.34 ERA in six starts this season before getting hurt. His enthusiasm was noted by Angels manager Mike Scioscia.
"If you're within an earshot of him he's very excited," Scioscia said. "He's been talking about this day for a couple weeks since he had the other checkup. If he's cleared to start throwing, we're trying to dissuade him from making his first pitch a slider."
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