April 10, 2015

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Los Angeles Angels right-hander Garrett Richards is eager to get his new season started eight months after knee surgery ended his breakout year.

The Angels believe Richards needs just a bit more work before his big comeback.

Richards will start for Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday before the Angels decide when he'll return to their rotation, although it isn't likely to be much longer.

''I feel like I'm ready to go,'' Richards said at his locker on Friday before the Angels' home opener against Kansas City.

A few minutes later, manager Mike Scioscia confirmed that the hard-throwing Richards will be going to the minors for at least one start. He is expected to take the mound in Fresno while the Angels are on the road in Texas.

''We're very optimistic of where he is,'' Scioscia said. ''He's very close, but this is something he needs. ... We're starting to take some safety nets off him.''

Richards had 12 strikeouts in seven innings during an intrasquad game in Arizona on Thursday, getting through the entire workout with minimal fatigue. He still made the trip to Orange County to be with his teammates on their home opening weekend, calling it ''like a holiday in baseball.''

''It's not my decision'' when to return to the mound, Richards said. ''I don't write my paychecks. But when I come back, I want to be ready to come back for the rest of the year.''

Richards went 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA last season before tearing a tendon in his left knee while covering first base in August. After surgery and a lengthy stretch on crutches, he spent the winter gradually strengthening his leg before a productive spring training.

He will be a key starter again for the Angels, the defending AL West champions after winning 98 games last year. The Angels will need a fifth starter for the first time on Tuesday, but they're expected to give the start to Drew Rucinski.

''You never want a guy to waste bullets (in the minors), but Garrett has still got some hurdles to get over,'' Scioscia said.

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