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OC Register: Garrett Richards will have Tommy John surgery, casting doubt on his future with Angels

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ANAHEIM — Garrett Richards has decided to undergo Tommy John surgery on the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, ending his season and casting doubt on his future with the Angels.

Dr. Neal ElAttrache will perform the surgery later this month. A free agent after this season, Richards does not expect to pitch again until 2020.

“Obviously you think about it,” Richards said of his impending free agency. “I think just by going in and getting it done, getting past it, knowing that this thing is repaired and ready to go – not only for peace of mind for me but for whoever wants me to play for them as well. I just want to get back to competing and doing what I do.”

The 30-year-old right-hander went 5-4 with a 3.66 earned-run average in 16 starts this season. He exited his most recent start Tuesday against the Seattle Mariners with discomfort in his right forearm.

Thursday, Richards revealed that his elbow had been bothering him since early June.

“The last week before I went on the DL while I was battling a hamstring strain, my arm just kind of felt like it wasn’t really rebounding,” Richards said. “The ball was coming out of my hand fine and I was still able to pitch obviously, but it got progressively worse. Toward the end, I couldn’t really hide it anymore.”

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The Angels drafted Richards 42nd overall in 2009, and he’s pitched 170 games for them since. In May 2016, he had the option of undergoing Tommy John surgery to replace the same UCL, but he opted instead for stem-cell therapy. This UCL tear, he said, is in the same area as the last one.

Richards made six starts in both 2016 and 2017, his progress interrupted by a strained biceps last year.

“I don’t want to say the stem cell (injection) didn’t work for me because it did, obviously,” Richards said. “But it was just something that I did that one time, and it got me to this point, but it’s something that I made up in my mind that if I need it, just get it.”

Richards is the fifth Angels pitcher to elect for Tommy John surgery this year, joining Keynan Middleton, JC Ramirez, Blake Wood and John Lamb. He was seen as a potential candidate to be traded prior to the non-waiver deadline on July 31, if the Angels chose to become sellers.

They began the day with a 47-46 record, fourth in the American League West and 11 games out of the league’s second wild-card berth.

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