Richards excited to be with 'fresh, new' club

February 16th, 2019

PEORIA, Ariz. -- A few months from now -- perhaps over a year -- will take the mound as a Padre for the first time. But make no mistake: The flame-thrower is very much a Padre already.

In his recovery from July Tommy John surgery, Richards resumed throwing last month. He's in camp, and he's playing catch at 90 feet. The Padres won't put a timetable on his return, but there's some optimism he could be back late this season.

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"With any injury, you take it a day at a time, and before you know it, you'll be at the finish line," Richards said.

During the offseason, with the Padres courting Richards, general manager A.J. Preller asked closer to give Richards a call. The two played together with the Angels and live practically across the street from each other in Chandler, Ariz.

It was an easy sell, Yates said. Richards wanted Arizona Spring Training to be near his family. He liked the direction of the organization and the ballpark. And the two-year, $15.5 million deal helped, too.

"He's a frontline starter when he's healthy," Yates said. "We get him healthy, we've got an ace."

That's the plan, at least. The Padres rotation seems shaky right now. But by the time Richards returns, is also expected back. A number of highly touted pitching prospects could be making an impact as well.

"This is an organization on the rise, and that's exciting," said Richards, who posted a 3.66 ERA in eight seasons with the Angels. "I'd love to be a part of something fresh, new and on the way up. ... It's cool being around these young, talented kids. I'm just trying to get to know these guys and be a resource if I can be."

Garcia embracing utility role

was en route to Lake Tahoe with his dad last October when he got a phone call from his agent. He noticed something unusual in his tone.

"I'm like, 'I know I got claimed, but he still sounds way too excited for that,'" Garcia said. "Then he said, 'You're going to be a Padre.'"

For an El Cajon native, who grew up watching the Padres at Qualcomm Stadium and later Petco Park, that meant the world.

Garcia will be an important cog in the Padres' infield plans this season. He's currently in competition for the starting job at third base, and he could share shortstop duties with . He fits at second, too.

Plus, Garcia's OBP-centric approach as a left-handed hitter should prove extremely valuable in a righty-heavy infield. Chances are, Garcia will enter the season without a truly defined role, and he's just fine with that.

"This is the big leagues, and we just want to win as a group," Garcia said. "You check your egos at the door. Let's try to do something special here. For me, that's easy. It's what I did with the Cardinals. Am I coming off the bench today? All right, I'll give you a great pinch-hit. Am I playing shortstop today? All right, I'll play the best shortstop I can play."

Mitchell in the mix

Last spring, right-hander was a rotation lock. The Padres brought him on board via trade and committed to using him in their rotation from the start.

This year, there's no such commitment. After a disappointing season in which he posted a 5.42 ERA, Mitchell, who is out of options, will be pitching for his job alongside about 10 other rotation candidates.

"Last year he came in, and it was pretty much: 'You're going to pitch,'" said manager Andy Green. "Now it's: 'You're going to get what you earn.'"

Said Mitchell: "I've got to earn everything."

Mitchell made some late strides, posting a 2.19 September ERA after returning from an elbow injury (even though he managed to do so with only 5.5 K/9). He made progress with his two-seam fastball, and he believes he honed a better curveball during the offseason.

"It was a good stepping stone going into this year as far as what my plan should be," Mitchell said.

Notes from camp

and were the newest arrivals at the spring complex Saturday. The majority of hitters have already joined the club, ahead of Monday's report date. The team's first full-squad workout is scheduled for Tuesday.

• Right-hander made it halfway through his scheduled bullpen session when he was forced to shut down due to injury. As he rared back to throw a pitch, Diaz winced and halted his motion, appearing to favor his right leg. The extent of the injury remains unclear, but teams are generally cautious with pitchers early in spring.

• Among the other pitchers to throw their first formal bullpen sessions Saturday were left-handers Logan Allen and and righty . All three are gunning for rotation places this spring, with Lauer as a prohibitive favorite.