It isn't just the four full months of a regular season, or the Spring Training that came before that, or the thought of having at least seven more starts, or the fact he's on pace to finish with a career-high 199 innings. It's that he's doing it all after an entire offseason spent rehabbing from major surgery.
"I haven't really had any time off, but I'm doing my best to maintain what I have now and try to hopefully have that last bit to get through the end," Richards said Friday, one year and eight days after suffering a ruptured patellar tendon in his left knee. "This offseason will obviously be nice to be able to relax a little bit, but we're right in the middle of it. You don't play this whole season to not make the playoffs."
Richards, who makes his 25th start against the Indians on Saturday, remains the Angels' most talented starter and will be counted on heavily down the stretch. But he hasn't really been the same. From last year to this year, Richards' ERA (2.61 to 3.80), WHIP (1.04 to 1.25) and OPS against (.529 to .678) have gone up; his strikeout rate (8.8 to 7.1) and four-seam-fastball velocity (97.1 mph to 96.1 mph) have gone down.
"Obviously, the year I've had is not what I think I'm capable of doing," Richards said, "but if you look at the grand scheme of things, I'm eating up some innings. I've accomplished what I wanted to accomplish as far as getting back on the field and being able to produce and help the team. It'll be nice to be able to take a deep breath after the season is over and kind of regroup, get myself back to where I was last year."
The 27-year-old right-hander spent the entire offseason rehabbing five days a week at Physiotherapy in Tempe, Ariz., then missed his first three turns through the rotation and said his knee didn't feel 100 percent until "maybe a couple of months after coming back."
The knee is completely healthy now. But Richards is still searching for the comfortable delivery that will produce more action on his two-seam fastball, and he's trying to push through without the lower-body strength that comes from an offseason of strength and conditioning rather than rehab.
"The doctors told me I wouldn't feel normal until a year out, really," Richards said. "Just to get back to being normal, or somewhat normal, it was a process. It was a major surgery. I'm just looking forward to being able to get back to doing the same things I was doing before, in the gym and in between."