Angels' Richards returns to face A's

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Los Angeles Angels right-hander Garrett Richards has missed 136 games and spent over five months on the disabled list since his first start of the season on April 5 at the Oakland Coliseum.

Richards pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Oakland Athletics that day before leaving the game with an injury to his right biceps.

Richards will come off the disabled list Tuesday night and return to the rotation for his second start of the season, once again at the Coliseum against the A's.

"I mean, why wouldn't it line up that way," Richards said Monday, smiling at the coincidence. "I'm just excited to be playing baseball again and to be back in this clubhouse with my teammates, back on the grind. I'm just excited about getting back out there and doing what I do and hopefully helping us win."

The Angels' injury-ravaged rotation could use a boost, and manager Mike Scioscia said Richards' return should lift the spirits of the entire team.

"He was definitely a big part of what we did in '14 and '15," Scioscia said. "Last year obviously was tough for him. Worked very hard to get back. I think the guys are excited for him because he's worked so hard to get to even this level he is now and where he was when he started the season."

Richards went 1/3 with a 2.34 ERA in six starts last season, which ended with an injury on May 1 to his right ulnar collateral ligament. Richards opted for stem cell injections instead of Tommy John surgery and was ready for the start of this season. However, in his first start, he felt cramping in his right biceps, which turned out to be a strain that landed him on the DL two days later.

"Obviously, it was nothing that was incredibly painful or anything," Richards said of his biceps injury. "I was still throwing hard and everything was still the same. It was just something I had noticed and kind of progressively got worse toward the end.

"I don't really have an answer for the reason why it happened. It's another bump in the road. It's nothing that I haven't gone through before. Anytime that I have an injury like that where I have that much down time, I just try to better myself in any way I can. "

Richards (0-0, 0.00 ERA this year) is 2-4 with a 4.20 ERA in 15 career games, including 11 starts, against Oakland.

Richards made only one rehab start, pitching two innings for Triple-A Salt Lake on Wednesday. He said he was told he would be limited to around 50 pitches. That means the Angels' bullpen will pitch much if not most of the Tuesday night game.

Scioscia used an American League-record 12 pitchers on Monday afternoon in an 11-9, 11-inning win against the A's, but he said his bullpen still has plenty of innings left in the bank for Tuesday.

The Angels pulled within a half-game of the Minnesota Twins for the second American League wild-card spot.

Los Angeles will continue its playoff push Tuesday against A's right-hander Kendall Graveman, who will face them for the fifth time this year. Graveman is 2-2 with a 3.68 ERA in 10 career starts against the Angels, including 1-1 with a 4.13 ERA this season.

"You know these guys and they know me, and that's without video," Graveman said. "They're just going off what they've seen. They've put together a little bit of a different lineup since the last time I faced them with a couple guys. It's always a challenge, it's always a battle with these guys."

In his most recent start, Wednesday at Anaheim, Graveman allowed five runs on six hits over five innings and got a no-decision in Oakland's 10-8 loss. He gave up two homers to Albert Pujols and one to Mike Trout.

"Pujols' second homer was a bad (pitch)," Graveman said. "The first one was out and he did a good job of hitting it to right field. Trout's homer was up, but it was off the plate away, so he did a good job of putting a good swing on that, too. I just have to be leery of guys in the lineup like that that have a tendency and chance to leave the yard at any time. Just continue to bear down and make pitches and try to get a ground ball if I can."

One day after that game, the Angels traded for left fielder Justin Upton and second baseman Brandon Phillips, making their batting order stronger and deeper.
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