Two years removed from Tommy John surgery, San Diego Padres pitcher Garrett Richards loosely indicated the shutdown was a blessing in disguise.
Making his way back from Tommy John surgery, Garrett Richards ended 2019 on a positive note, not only for himself but also for the San Diego Padres, who invested two years in him. He wasn’t expected to pitch at all, but he returned to make three starts – albeit it was just 8.2 innings – fanning 11 in the process.
By all accounts, he was off to an encouraging start in spring training, fanning six batters over 5.1 frames while walking just one batter. Then the coronavirus pandemic prematurely ended the spring exhibition and put the 2020 season in doubt.
Nearly four months later, Richards is ready to go, and the Padres will be relying on him to anchor a relatively young starting rotation. He also indicated that this four-month layout was perhaps a benediction of health.
"“I think being able to continue to throw and not really stress it over these last couple of months might have helped it. I’ve talked to some guys that say that this first year back, they ride this rollercoaster of feeling good for a while, then maybe getting some tendonitis. I’m getting close to the two-year mark…maybe this is a blessing in disguise, but I feel great. I feel healthy.”"
If all goes to plan, Richards could potentially be an inexpensive extension candidate. The shortened season, from a health perspective, offered the 32-year-old more time for recovery, but it didn’t do any favors in terms of showcasing himself for potential suitors this offseason.
The free-agent market is likely going to look different than previous years because of the financial impact of the 60-game season, and Richards, if healthy, may not command a high-profile contract. That said, the Padres could potentially bring him back on a one-year deal, but they’ll also have to make sure they aren’t putting up roadblocks on prospects set to make their debut.
Richards was once an elite pitcher in 2014 and 2015, and the Padres would be happy if he flashed similar brilliance while also remaining healthy.