The Fresno Grizzlies had just a few problems against big-league pitcher Garrett Richards.
Richards, a regular starter for the Los Angeles Angels last season when he went went 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA before tearing his patella tendon in August, made a rehab start for the Salt Lake Bees on Tuesday night at Chukchansi Park.
He dominated early, striking out three of the first four batters he faced and retiring the side in order in the first and second innings.
But the Grizzlies eventually tagged the 2014 Cy Young award candidate for seven hits and five runs through five innings before cruising to a 12-4 win in front of 2,990 fans.
Still, Richards said he felt comfortable in his first “real game” in eight months.
He had four appearances with the Angels in controlled environments before his Triple-A rehab start.
“To be out in a competitive environment and compete against guys and have a game actually mean something puts me into that game mode,” Richards said.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound right-hander was confident with his left knee all night.
He ran off the mound twice, once to field a sacrifice bunt and again to cover first base. On the latter attempt, he was a little slow to come off the mound, but he said it was more of a mental thing.
“My first couple of steps I have to remember that everything is cool and I can run (to cover first base),” he said. “This far along, I know in my heart that my leg is ready to go. Mentally is another thing. That’s something I’ll overcome with time.”
Richards was in good spirits after the game as he said he would be flying out today to join the Angels.
There is a good indication he could make his first major league start of the season Sunday in Houston. The Angels have listed their starter for that game as undecided.
“I don’t think I need anymore rehab starts,” Richards said. “I’m ready to go.”
Preston Tucker fueled Fresno’s offense with a pair of two-run home runs, including the first one in the fifth inning off Richards.
Ahead in the count 0-2, Richards threw a hanging slider that Tucker roped just over the wall in right field for a 5-4 lead.
His second came in the seventh against Salt Lake’s Ryan Mattheus and put Fresno ahead 7-4. They were home runs numbers 2 and 3 for Tucker through six games this season.
Tucker got a push from Mother Nature, with 15-mph winds blowing out to right all night.
“I just took advantage of a mistake,” Tucker said. “All I was trying to do with two strikes is try and put together an at-bat. And the second is the same thing. I caught a breaking ball that went out over the plate.”
LJ Hoes started the comeback with a two-run double in the third. On the next at-bat, first baseman Jon Singleton singled up the middle to put the Grizzlies ahead for the first time.
Five Grizzlies had multiple hits as Fresno came back to win for the second straight game.
“It shows a lot about the offense of this team,” Tucker said. “We can rebound, come back and score a lot of runs.”