Richmond feeling healthy

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Josh Richmond fell to the 12th round in last year's MLB Draft due to multiple hand injuries during his final two years of college. Now fully healthy, the prospect is flashing promising tools and impressing in minor league camp. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 21-year-old outfielder.

Outfielder Josh Richmond never showed a shortage of raw talent during his three-year career at the University of Louisville. He did, however, struggle to stay healthy.

Over his sophomore and junior seasons with the Cardinals ('09 and '10), Richmond suffered broken bones in both of his hands. As the prospect explains below, he broke one hand in the middle of the '09 campaign but played through the pain before having surgery after the season. In 2010, he broke the other hand and was limited to only 23 contests.

Playing through the injury as a sophomore, Richmond still managed to put up solid numbers. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound prospect batted .307/.385/.487 with 18 walks and 34 strikeouts in 61 contests. The results weren't the same as a junior, though. Getting only 84 official at-bats, Richmond hit .262/.351/.369.

In a pre-draft scouting report, Baseball America wrote that a healthy Richmond had a chance to go as high as the third round in last year's draft. The Rangers snagged him in the 12th round and eventually signed him for an above-slot $195,000.

Richmond has a chance to develop into one of the organization's top outfield prospects if he can remain healthy. The 21-year-old has good athleticism, arm strength, and raw power. He posted a strong professional debut in 35 games at short-season Spokane last summer, hitting .297/.417/.458 with 16 walks and 23 strikeouts. Despite the strong results, Richmond says the strength hadn't completely returned to his hands yet.

The Cincinnati native has been impressive early on in minor league camp. After appearing in a recent major league ‘B' game, he worked with the Myrtle Beach group on Thursday. Facing Kansas City's High-A club, Richmond went 2-for-2 with a double, a sacrifice fly, and two runs batted in. He showed good bat speed by turning on a hard fastball on the inner half and whacking it down the line for the run-scoring double.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with Richmond after Thursday's game to discuss his injury history, his current game, and what he'd like to work on in spring training games.

Jason Cole: You got to play in 35 regular season games with Spokane after signing last summer. What were your thoughts on that overall experience?

Josh Richmond: First of all, I had a great time. It was a great group of guys, and we made a good run toward the end. We actually made it to the finals. That's the first thing––winning. It made it a lot easier to play.

For my first season of pro ball, I felt good. The past two or three years in college, I was always hurt, so it was good to finally play a decent season and actually be healthy for once.

Cole: What were some of those injuries that held you back in college?

Richmond: My sophomore year, I broke my hand in the middle of the season. I just finished the season and ended up getting surgery in the offseason. And then I came back, took two weeks to get ready for the season in my junior year, and then five games into it I broke my other hand. That put me out for almost my whole junior season. The first time I really got back into playing was in Spokane. It was definitely good. I feel great now––being healthy and finally being able to stay on the field.

Cole: How long was it until there were no lasting effects in either hand?

Richmond: Well, I came back around the conference tournament and I struggled with it a little bit there. After I got drafted, I didn't sign until about mid-June. So I had a little bit of time to work on it, rehab, and get it back. But I'd say once I started getting into the groove in Spokane, it didn't hurt me. The strength may not have been there, but it didn't bother me. Now it feels great.

Cole: You mentioned feeling healthy but not really having the strength. How long did it take to get the strength back in your hands?

Richmond: It takes a little bit of time. But if you do your rehab and do everything you can to get back on the field, then it definitely goes quicker. You don't realize how much your hands mean to you and how valuable they are and how much you use them until you hurt them––I can tell you that much.

Cole: How did you hurt them?

Richmond: I got hit by a pitch and broke my right one and had surgery on that. And then diving into the wall––that's how I broke my left one. I haven't had a good past with my hands.

Cole: And you're back to 100 percent now?

Richmond: Yes––100 percent. I stay in the training room now, stretch, and do everything I can to stay on the field. So far it has been great. I'm going to keep doing it and hopefully I stay healthy.

Cole: Tell me about what you did over the offseason to prepare for the long grind of a full season.

Richmond: Just make sure that your body is ready for it. The baseball is going to come to you. I obviously hit a lot and threw a lot. But I was just eating right and taking care of my body. You have to make sure that you get up every morning and basically treat your body like a temple––that's what my college coach said.

I've seen such a difference now since I began taking care of my body. I was eating all the right things and pretty much doing everything I can. I definitely see how that helps you, because I'm healthy now and I feel like my body is in better shape.

Cole: You got to attend instructs after last season, and I saw you play in a couple advanced instructs games. Did you spend the majority of your time on the advanced side?

Richmond: I was actually battling a little thing with my hand and elbow. I started playing a little bit in the advanced league, but they kind of shut me down toward the end. I played more in the regular, I'd say, but I did make a couple games in the advanced, which was a good time.

Cole: Even though you were battling some problems, what were the things you were focusing on most at instructs?

Richmond: Basically just staying patient––pitch recognition. I really wanted to start seeing a lot of pitches. I still wanted to be aggressive, but I wanted to be able to work counts. I want to be patient but aggressive at the same time. I feel like I got a little help from Bo (hitting coordinator Mike Boulanger). These hitting coaches are unbelievable. If you really listen to them and take in what they say, they're going to make you a better hitter, for sure.

Cole: Can you describe your approach at the plate and what you try to do up there?

Richmond: I want to be aggressive to the first pitch. The first fastball I see, anywhere around the zone, I definitely want to go get it. But I really want to be a situational hitter, too. I'm hitting in the four spot right now, but I still want to do the job. If there's a runner on third, I want to get him in and things like that. I stay gap-to-gap and really stay short––I don't want to get too long. I just want to hit line drives.

Cole: You got to play in the big league ‘B' game against the Royals a couple days ago. How was that experience?

Richmond: I guess you can definitely tell that those guys are a step above. They've been doing it for awhile. You can just tell by the way they carry themselves. The way their pitcher takes the mound, the way he throws his warmup pitches, hits his spots. You could definitely tell it was a big leaguer.

But my ultimate goal for awhile has been to play in the big leagues. You're going to end up having to hit pitchers like the guy I faced. But it's a blast, going up there and actually seeing what it's like. I didn't get a hit––wasn't successful in that at-bat. That was actually the first time I'd seen live pitching. I wasn't happy but it was just great to get out there and get a chance.

Cole: As you work in spring training, what do you want to improve upon at the plate?

Richmond: I basically just want to be consistent. I feel like when my swing is going good, I do a lot of good things. If I can just keep it going and not get away from what Bo and these guys are telling me to do, I feel like I can have a lot of success. I'm just basically getting what I need to work on and I want to stay consistent throughout the season.

It's a long season. I've been taking notes before and after and trying to write down everything I do when I do good. If I start struggling or don't have a good game, I can always refer back to them. That has helped me out a lot, too. But basically I want to stay consistent and just keep doing what I'm doing right now.

Cole: When did you start taking notes like that?

Richmond: It was actually during instructs. We would have hitters' meetings, and I would meet with Bo before and after and watch film. He really helped me. I talked to him. He and (hitting coach) Luis (Ortiz) said, ‘Write it down. Take notes. Say what you did when you hit well, so when you do start struggling and you don't have film to watch, you can just go back to your notes and see what you were doing.' That has actually helped me. I'm going to keep doing that and hopefully keep having success.

Cole: You played right field today, your primary position in Spokane last summer. Have you played all three outfield positions in the past?

Richmond: Yeah. Actually, I was a shortstop my whole life before I went to college. And then I played left field in my freshman year. My sophomore year, the majority of it was in center. And then my junior year, I was in right. So I was all over the place.

Cole: Is there one spot that you feel most comfortable at right now?

Richmond: Well, center field is my favorite to play. But I'm adapting to play in right field every day, and I'm starting to like it a lot. I'll play wherever they need me to play––I'll play third or go back to the infield if they need me to.

Cole: When you do work in the outfield, what are some of the things you're focusing on out there?

Richmond: The first and most important thing, I think, is your first step. Even if a ball isn't hit to you––if it's hit to left field or whatever, you really try to get good reads and get a good first step. With a good first step, you can make up probably five or six steps on a ball in the gap or something like that. Basically, if you work on your first step, I feel like that can make you a better outfielder.

Cole: As we grind toward your first full season, have you started to think about what you'd like to get accomplished this year?

Richmond: I haven't set any goals yet, but I want to just keep working hard. I feel like, if I do all the right things and treat my body right––get to the field early every day, put in my work, and keep doing what I'm doing––that success will come. I want to worry about all the little things and let everything else take control of itself.

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