Angels, Richards disagree on pitcher’s readiness

Garrett Richards is ready. It’s the Angels who aren’t.

Richards will make at least one start in Triple-A before to test the repaired patella tendon in his left knee before he joins the Angels rotation, delaying the return of the team’s best pitcher last year.

Richards threw 97 pitches in a simulated game on Thursday, his fourth appearance in a controlled environment. It was enough to convince him he’s ready to start on Tuesday.

“I feel like I’m ready to go,” Richards said. “(Thursday) was probably the best I’ve felt from start to finish without fatiguing or anything like that. Covering bases was fine and fielding bunts and stuff was fine…I feel like I’m right where I need to be.”

Mike Scioscia disagrees. The Angels manager was adamant that at least one start in an uncontrolled environment was necessary for Richards, who broke out last season with a 13-4 record and a 2.61 ERA.

“At some point the guy’s got to go out there and play baseball. If he has a 32-pitch inning, tough luck,” Scioscia said. “If they want to bunt on him 10 straight times, they can. This is real baseball. He needs to experience this.”

Drew Rucinski is expected to start Tuesday, the first time this season the Angels will need a fifth starter.

After starting 29 games combined the previous three seasons, the 26-year-old Richards emerged as the Angels’ best pitcher last season, his first with a sub-4.0 ERA. He required season-ending surgery on the patella tendon he tore on an innocuous play covering first base, but it feels good enough that Richards doesn’t believe he needs a live game before joining the Angels’ rotation.

“I think everything will be the same once the lights are on,” Richards said. “There won’t be any adjustment period. Pitching in the intrasquad games and the minor league games, I still treat it like it’s a start. I’m still being as aggressive as I’m going to be.”

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