Padres left-hander Clayton Richard is back in action after his 2011 season was cut short due to shoulder surgery. Limited to 18 starts after he enjoyed a breakout season in 2010 with 14 wins, Richard is fully recovered and has enjoyed a fine start to this season. In his first appearance, he and two relievers combined on a four-hitter for a victory over the rival Dodgers. He recently answered questions from MLBPLAYERS.com:

MLBPLAYERS.com: The season is young, obviously, but can you talk about your start to the year?

Clayton Richard: We have had some ups and some downs so far, which is sort of how baseball goes. Personally, I had a pretty good outing initially, and then my second outing was a rough one. I am still making adjustments to try and get into a good flow to this season.

MLBPLAYERS.com: What are some of the positives you take away from your start?

Richard: For the most part, I would say my fastball command. I think I am also fortunate to have the catchers that we have in Nick Hundley and John Baker. I have been able to get on the same page with them both so quickly. After having that long break, I was a little apprehensive about that coming into this season. It is about having a good rhythm with your catchers, and so far we haven't missed a beat.

MLBPLAYERS.com: What are some of the positives you take away from your club's overall play to date?

Richard: We are playing hard. I also think that we are the ones making the mistakes, and we are not just getting beat. I think if we can correct those small things and play the game better, things will turn around because we are definitely playing the game hard.

MLBPLAYERS.com: You started your big league career with the White Sox in 2008, so you have some service time at this level under your belt. But looking at your roster, this looks like a very young team. Just how young is this club?

Richard: It is pretty young. We have a couple of older guys, guys like Orlando Hudson and Mark Kotsay, to help lead the way. But for the most part, we are a young team and with that comes good energy. Translating that good energy into good baseball is the next step.

MLBPLAYERS.com: How do you describe your 2011 season?

Richard: Long. It was a long season. I don't know how else to describe. We weren't winning, I was dealing with injury. It was a tough one.

MLBPLAYERS.com: At a certain point do you just get tired of talking about your shoulder surgery?

Richard: A little bit because you just want to be back to normal. You just want people to consider you being normal. With that being said, it is really nice to be active and to be playing and to be a part of the team.

MLBPLAYERS.com: Some of the real unsung heroes that go into a rehab are the athletic trainers who are with your team. How much credit do they get for helping your return to health?

Richard: We are very fortunate to have one of, if not the very best, training and medical staffs in all of professional sports. Having them around to help me get back to where I needed to be, to show me the way and what I needed to do to get better, was great. They lay out the rehab process and show me the way.

MLBPLAYERS.com: Were you the type to ask a lot of questions about the process?

Richard: It was a combination of that and listening. They do a very good job of explaining what is going on and what is wrong. At the same time, you want to really look and understand it. They are experts in that area, but there were times when I would take to research on my own to make sure I completely understood it. I tried to take in as much knowledge as I could to get better and to stay better. This was my first major injury.

MLBPLAYERS.com: Did you learn a lot about pitching during your time off by simply watching?

Richard: I think that you learn something every year in baseball. Last year for me was no different. Sitting out, you get to understand some of the things you can do to try and stay healthy. In general, you just try and progress as a baseball player all the time.

MLBPLAYERS.com: Finally, what goals do you set for yourself and for your club this season?

Richard: Honestly, I think that is too far ahead for us right now. I say that for myself and for us as a team. I think we have a lot of things we need to work on right now. Day by day we need to worry about those things as opposed to trying to predict certain numbers. If we go about it day by day with the understanding that we will learn something new every day, and we don't duplicate the same mistake the following day, then we will be where we want to be in the end.

Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.