Richards gives Padres a look toward 2020

Right-hander fans 5 in first appearance since July 2018

September 17th, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- Officially eliminated from postseason contention with a 5-1 loss to the Brewers on Monday night at Miller Park, the San Diego Padres can now set their sights on the 2020 season -- one that's expected to be a turning point for the franchise.

And Monday, the Padres got their first glimpse of a pitcher who they hope will be a major contributor to that group as took the mound for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery last July.

The veteran right-hander looked every bit the part of a pitcher who hadn't worked a real inning in 433 days, giving up three runs over 3 2/3 innings of work. But he struck out five batters without allowing a walk and threw 42 of his 61 pitches for strikes. Most importantly, he reported absolutely no discomfort with his right elbow.

"There was a lot to like," Padres manager Andy Green said. "Just seeing him healthy, on a Major League mound and competing. (He had) good strikeout stuff. I know he's going to want a couple of pitches back because he's a real competitor, but I think overall for us today, it was a huge step toward making him a part of what we do here in the future."

The future is what San Diego had in mind when it signed Richards (0-1) to a two-year, $15.5 million contract last December. The Padres knew they would get only limited use of him in 2019, but by adding a healthy veteran to the mix for 2020, they believe they have the makings of a contending rotation.

"Every team that's really good has an ace, and he's a bona fide ace," catcher Austin Hedges said. "He's a guy who, when he takes the mound every fifth day, it doesn't matter who (the opposing team) is putting out there, we're winning that game."

Richards got off to a quick start, retiring the Brewers in order on just 15 pitches in the opening inning, including a pair of strikeouts while his fastball topped out at 95.1 mph.

A leadoff double by Ryan Braun turned into a 1-0 deficit in the second when former Padre Cory Spangenberg lined a two-out single to center.

"It was cool because it was the first time in a while that I felt like where I was supposed to be," Richards said. "Obviously I wish I could have a couple pitches back tonight because it probably would have changed everything, but it was good to get back out there, get into that environment, see an MLB lineup and get back into the swing of things."

Richards added another strikeout while retiring the side in order in the third, but after San Diego tied the score at 1 on an RBI double by , Spangenberg put the Brewers back in front in the bottom of the inning with a two-out, two-run triple, brining Richards' return to an early end.

“He was a very good pitcher before the injury, and was always known as a guy with some of the better stuff in the American League, so I was expecting good stuff," Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. "The command of the strike zone was really good.

"My question was, ‘Is he going to command the ball?’ And he did a really nice job. He’s throwing 90-95 mph [with] pretty significant cutters. It’s a good arm and you understand why they made that commitment to him. We got two timely hits tonight, is how we scored.”

got San Diego out of the fourth without former damage while Ronald Bolaños allowed two runs, including a pinch-hit home run by Travis Shaw, over three innings of relief work.

The Padres’ offense managed just two hits off Milwaukee starter Zach Davies (10-7) while the Brewers’ bullpen combined for four scoreless innings, striking out seven as San Diego lost its fifth in a row and for the sixth time in eight games.