Richards open to potential six-man rotation

Angels right-hander all about helping club win in 2018

January 30th, 2018

ANAHEIM -- Angels right-hander weighed in on the possibility of pitching in a six-man rotation during a recent interview with the team-owned radio station KLAA AM 830, expressing support for the unconventional configuration that the club views as a potential way to curb rotation injuries and help ease Shohei Ohtani's transition to the Majors this season.
"Obviously it would affect my in-between-start routine a little bit, but I've talked to [general manager] Billy [Eppler] about it, and he's kind of emphasized his thoughts on it," Richards said. "I just told him, 'Billy, whatever we got to do to win. Whatever is going to be beneficial for the team.' Whether you make 28 starts or 32 starts, you're still going to be out there giving a significant amount to the team. I told him, 'I just want to win,' and I think that's the consensus with everyone on our staff. For us, it's all about winning. Winning creates happiness in our locker room and makes everything kind of easier. If you're winning, that will solve a lot of problems."
Richards has proved to be a No. 1 starter when healthy, but the 29-year-old has made only 12 starts for the Angels over the past two seasons due to arm injuries. Though he returned from a damaged elbow ligament after undergoing stem-cell therapy in 2016, Richards was forced to depart his first start of the '17 season with nerve irritation in his right biceps. He ended up missing five months and did not pitch again until September, when he logged a 2.74 ERA over five starts while working on a limited pitch count.
Richards' injury troubles -- coupled with those of fellow starters and -- decimated the rotation in two consecutive seasons and played a significant role in undermining the club's competitiveness. While the Angels have plugged most of their offseason holes through the moves for Ohtani, left fielder , second baseman and infielder Zack Cozart, the health of their rotation -- especially Richards' -- will be key for their ability to contend in 2018.
"I know that whenever I'm on the mound, I know what I can do," Richards said. "I know what I bring to the table, so that's not a discouraging part of what I'm going through. More or less, it's how do I find a way to stay healthy all year? I know that if I can make my starts every fifth day, I'm going to give us a chance to win. I know that I can do that. I've shown that I can do that. That's not really the thing that I'm worried about. I'm just worried about staying healthy and being out there for my teammates."
Richards, who is entering his final season before free agency, lives in Arizona during the offseason, and he has been working out with right fielder and first baseman C.J. Cron at the Angels' Spring Training complex in Tempe. Richards said one of his aims this offseason is to improve his flexibility, which he thinks could also help keep him on the field this season.
"We're still here to get strong, and we're still here to lose some weight, but our main focus really is to get strong and stay flexible at the same time," Richards said. "I think that's going to play a big part in me staying healthy this year. I'm just excited about it."