The Angels received some bad news earlier this month when they learned ace right-hander Garrett Richards has a torn ligament in his elbow and will require Tommy John surgery. The injury more or less sinks their season.
Plans have now changed. Richards will not have Tommy John surgery and will instead attempt to rehab the injury.
Garrett Richards has chosen not to undergo Tommy John surgery. Is getting something similar to a PRP shot today, shut down six weeks.— Alden Gonzalez (@Alden_Gonzalez) May 16, 2016
A fully torn ligament is beyond rehab, so Richards must have a relatively small partial tear, otherwise the doctors would not have recommended rehab. And that's the important thing to remember here: The doctors recommended rehab. Richards isn't making this decision on his own.
It's worth noting most attempts to rehab a partial tear fail and the pitcher ultimately needs Tommy John surgery anyway. Matt Harvey, Chad Billingsley, Drew Hutchison and Francisco Liriano are among those who attempted to rehab partial tears only to need Tommy John in recent years.
That said, the rehab approach has worked. Most notably, Masahiro Tanaka successfully rehabbed a partial tear back in 2014. Tanaka missed most of the second half of that season rehabbing, but the elbow has given him no trouble since. He has a 3.51 ERA (115 ERA+) in 205 1/3 innings since the injury.
The rehab process is not quick. Richards will indeed be shut down for six weeks, then he'll begin a throwing program and get himself back into game shape. If he does return to the mound this season, it won't be until the second half in all likelihood. The Angels should know fairly quickly whether the rehab is working.
Richards, 27, went 1-3 with a 2.34 ERA (163 ERA+) in six starts and 34 2/3 innings this season before hurting his elbow. He missed the end of the 2014 season with a freak knee injury suffered while covering first base.
Angels lefty Andrew Heaney is also attempting to rehab a partial elbow ligament tear.