August 15, 2016

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Angels right-hander Garrett Richards played catch Monday for the first time since being diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament on May 6.

Richards has been getting stem cell treatments in hopes of avoiding Tommy John surgery. He made 25 throws from 45 feet without pain.

''Everything felt 100 percent normal,'' Richards said. ''I know it's just the first day, but I felt good so far.''

Richards began a strength program after imaging showed healing in the ligament. He had more imaging Monday morning and was then cleared to begin a throwing program. He's aiming to be healthy for spring training next season.

''I went back in for another visit today to kind of make sure that what I was doing in the last 12 days or so wasn't compromising what we had accomplished. Everything checks up nice,'' Richards said. ''Even the areas we were more concerned about the last time were looking even better than last time. It's moving in the right direction and we've gotten nothing but positive news up until this point.''

Richards hopes to get back on a mound in late September and pitch in the fall or instructional league to test his breaking pitches and face live hitters.

''I definitely need to test it before the offseason comes,'' Richards said. ''I'll have to compete and I'll have to be in a game before I shut it down for the offseason.''

Richards is 1-3 with a 2.34 ERA in six starts this season and was 15-12 with a 3.65 ERA in 32 starts in 2015. His return next season would be crucial for Los Angeles because Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano elected to have Tommy John surgery and will likely be out all of next season.

''Nice to get a bit of good news for a change,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ''Garrett is a guy who is important. Getting him back makes filling some of the other spots easier.''

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