The Los Angeles Angels ace has a torn patella tendon in left knee, the team announced Thursday. It will require surgery and keep him out six to nine months. His season, obviously, is done and he could miss the start of 2015.
Richards was on the ground in agony Wednesday night after his knee buckled while racing to cover first base. It happened in the second inning of the Angels' game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Richards was eventually carried off the field, sent to the hospital, then flown back to L.A. on Thursday morning for an MRI.
The results have turned the Angels' week upside-down. It was all smiles earlier, when the Angels overtook the Oakland Athletics for first place in the AL West. They hadn't been alone in first since 2011. And now this. Their best pitcher, gone.
The Angels wouldn't be in first right now if it weren't for Richards, who was having a breakout season at age 26. He's 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA. Before Wednesday's game, he was tied for third in the AL for wins and was fifth in ERA. If not for Felix Hernandez's completely absurd season on the mound, Richards would be a top-tier AL Cy Young candidate.
Richards wouldn't be an easy replacement for any team, but the Angels might have a tougher-than-usual time coping with the loss. A trade could be a possibility, because the pitcher cupboard is virtually empty in Anaheim. From Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com:
The Angels have already lost 23-year-old starter Tyler Skaggs to Tommy John surgery, and are thin on starting pitching in their farm system. Potential call-ups from Triple-A include lefty Wade LeBlanc (4.00 ERA in 21 starts), lefty Randy Wolf (5.26 ERA in 25 2/3 innings) and righty Chris Volstad (5.45 ERA in six starts). Another option could be lefty Michael Roth, who is 10-6 with a 2.82 ERA in 20 starts for Double-A Arkansas.
The A's and Angels start a three-game series Friday, with Oakland looking to chip away at the Angels' lead in the AL West. It stands at a game and a half right now. You can bet Angels fans would feel more comfortable with that lead if they knew Richards would be taking the mound again soon.
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