San Diego Padres: Garrett Richards “having fun playing baseball again”

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(Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
(Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /
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After dominating in his first start of the 2020 campaign, San Diego Padres pitcher Garrett Richards says he’s having fun again.

I have to give credit where credit is due. I didn’t think it was possible, but Garrett Richards has managed to grow a fantastic mustache. All joking aside, Richards’ start on Sunday was one that I was interested in covering, especially with the San Diego Padres hurler coming back from Tommy John surgery.

Richards, 32, underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2018, after battling through a couple of years with arm and elbow issues. The Padres took a chance, signing him to a two-year deal knowing full well that he may not pitch one inning in 2019. As it turned out, Richards made three starts to close out 2019; albeit was just 8.2 innings. Still, it was encouraging to see the former Angels ace return to the mound.

And in spring training, Richards looked really good. He was a guy that likely benefited the most from the temporary hiatus on baseball, providing more time for him to recover. On Sunday, Richards dazzled through five frames, fanning six batters while allowing just one hit.

“It’s just fun. I’m having fun playing baseball again,” said Richards, via Fox Sports San Diego. It’s not rehab anymore. It feels good to be back out there and pitching pain-free.”

Richards is doing more with less, as he dropped the changeup and cutter fastball last year, which were pitches featured in his arsenal in 2014.

Of the six strikeouts on Sunday, Richards achieved half of those via the curveball with swinging strikeouts to Starling Marte, Jake Lamb, and Eduardo Escobar. Two strikeouts came via the slider and just one via the fastball.

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Back in 2014, only 11 percent of Richards’ strikeouts came via the curveball. It will be interesting to look at the sample size after several more starts to observe if the trends truly have changed. Still, it’s encouraging to see the curveball being so effective in a one-game sample size.

“After having Tommy John and being able to start over with my mechanics…it’s really become a very comfortable pitch for me.”

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