Author: D.J. Short

Garrett Richards AP

Garrett Richards ready to face hitters for first time since knee surgery


Angels right-hander Garrett Richards is ready to make the next step in his rehab from knee surgery, as Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports that he will throw his first live batting practice session on Saturday.

Richards, who tore the patellar tendon in his left knee last August, participated in pitchers fielding practice for the first time yesterday. He’ll likely need to throw two sessions against hitters before getting into a game, so Fletcher estimates that his Cactus League debut could fall somewhere around March 13. That likely doesn’t leave him enough time to get stretched out for the season, but the Angels don’t expect him back until 2-3 weeks in anyway.

Richards emerged as one of the best pitchers in the American League prior to the knee injury last year, posting a 2.61 ERA and 164/51 K/BB ratio across 168 2/3 innings. He’ll turn 27 in May.

Cliff Lee throws two scoreless innings in Grapefruit League debut

Cliff Lee AP

In his first game action since last July 31, Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee threw two scoreless innings this afternoon in his Grapefruit League debut against the Astros.

Lee, who was limited to just 13 starts last season due to a flexor pronator strain, allowed two singles while walking none and striking out none. He threw 16 out of 22 pitches for strikes. According to Jim Salisbury of, Lee said that his elbow felt “normal.”

“I don’t have any uncertainty,” he said. “I definitely have confidence and expect to go out there and be successful, and I’m doing everything I can to prevent something like that from happening again. That’s really all I can do. There’s no worry or uncertainty or anything like that. I’m just going to go out there and be confident and expect to have success and not really even think about it, to be honest with you.”

It’s unlikely that anyone will trade for Lee based off a handful of starts in spring training, but he’s an obvious candidate to be moved if he proves his health and effectiveness during the first half. The 36-year-old southpaw is owed $25 million this season and $27.5 million or a $12.5 million buyout for 2017.

Hector Olivera’s camp denies any damage to ulnar collateral ligament

Hector Olivera Getty

UPDATE: Ben Badler of Baseball America got a stronger response from Olivera’s camp, who said that the report about possible UCL damage in his elbow is “absolutely not true.” Additionally, they say that he has taken for physicals and passed them all.

7:33 p.m. ET: According to Jesse Sanchez of, representatives for Hector Olivera “were surprised” to hear about Passan’s report and weren’t aware of any ligament damage in the elbow. They also said that he feels fine. This doesn’t necessarily clear anything up, though.

7:11 p.m. ET: After Yoan Moncada reached a deal with the Red Sox, the next big name Cuban player to sign with an MLB team was expected to be infielder Hector Olivera. However, it’s safe to say that his market just hit a bit of a snag. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports has the story:

Serious concern exists that Cuban infielder Hector Olivera has a damaged ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm, potentially hindering the market for a free agent who many expected to contribute in the major leagues this season, sources told Yahoo Sports.

Olivera, 29, recently underwent physicals for a number of teams in anticipation of Major League Baseball clearing him to sign. The market for Olivera swelled following a strong series of showcases and private workouts in which the right-handed hitter showed the powerful bat that made him a star second baseman in Cuba.

According to Passan, Olivera already has one offer in hand for more than $50 million. However, a damaged UCL and the possibility of Tommy John surgery would almost certainly change things.

Of course, position players don’t need as much time to rehab from Tommy John surgery as pitchers, but it would still likely cost Olivera around 6-9 months. That would rule him out for all of 2015. And this isn’t a young player we are talking about here. He’ll be 30 this April.

Olivera batted some injuries toward the end of his time in Cuba, missing the entire 2012-13 season due to thrombosis in his left biceps, but he has done nothing but hit when healthy. He compiled a .323/.407/.505 batting line over 10 seasons with Asvispas de Santiago in Serie Nacional.

UPDATE: Hunter Pence out 6-8 weeks with fracture in left forearm

Hunter Pence Getty

UPDATE: Alex Pavlovic of brings word that X-rays confirmed a non-displaced fracture in the forearm. Pence will be sidelined for 6-8 weeks, which means that he’ll likely miss the first month of the season.

Losing Pence obviously hurts, but the Giants should be able to get by with their in-house options. Angel Pagan and Nori Aoki will hold down two outfield spots while some combination of Gregor Blanco, Justin Maxwell, Travis Ishikawa, and Juan Perez can fill in.

6:22 p.m. ET: According to Alex Pavlovic of, the Giants believe that Pence suffered a broken left forearm. Not good. We should have a better idea about a timetable after X-rays are completed.

6:09 p.m. ET: Some concerning news here for the defending World Series champion Giants…

According to Alex Pavlovic of, outfielder Hunter Pence is headed for X-rays after he was hit in the hand by a pitch during today’s Cactus League game against the Cubs. Nothing is official yet, but Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that there “seems to be some pessimism” regarding the situation. Uh oh.

Pence has long been regarded as one of the game’s most durable players. He has appeared in all 162 games in back-to-back seasons and has played in at least 154 games dating back to 2008.

Pence, who turns 32 in April, batted .277/.332/.445 with 20 home runs, 74 RBI, and 13 stolen bases last season.

Nationals sign Tony Gwynn, Jr.

Tony Gwynn Jr. Getty

The Nationals have agreed to terms with outfielder Tony Gwynn, Jr. on a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Gwynn appeared in 80 games with the Phillies last season, but he struggled in limited playing time, putting up a .152/.264/.190 batting line across 127 plate appearances. He also lost his father, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, last June. The 32-year-old owns a .238 batting average and a .619 OPS across 685 games in the majors, but he offers speed and experience at all three outfield positions.

As Mark Zuckerman of notes, Gwynn will function as insurance with Jayson Werth and Nate McLouth each rehabbing from shoulder surgery.