Apr 9, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Clayton Richard (33) pitches during the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
The Pittsburgh Pirates and left-handed pitcher Clayton Richard agreed to a minor league deal that includes an invitation to spring training on Wednesday. Richard is coming off a season he spent in Arizona’s minor league system where he posted 1-2 record and a 5.91 ERA.
This deal is definitely a win-win for the Pirates and for Richard. It basically costs Pittsburgh nothing to bring along a pitcher who once had a bright future before a shoulder injury set his career back. Richard was never going to be a Cy Young winner but shoulder surgery seemed to have changed the player for the worse. He has not pitched in the majors since 2013 and hopefully getting a chance with the Pirates brings him back.
Richard — in his best season — did show signs of being a promising mid-rotational pitcher as he went 14-9 with a 3.75 ERA with the San Diego Padres in 2010. His WHIP has never been anything to write home about (1.40 career WHIP), but he did limit homers during his best seasons. This signing could turn out to be nothing but a nice gesture for a pitcher who may never see major league time again, but if there is a team that can get the very best out of Richard, it is the Pirates.
Pitching coach Ray Searage has had plenty of examples to his name of turning a pitcher who may have lost his way into one who either matched what he used to do well — Edinson Volquez — or find a new way to pitch after injury — Francisco Liriano. Searage also has turned forgotten relievers into star closers with Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon both putting together nice seasons in that role. When Grilli lost his way and was eventually dealt, Melancon — who some though was a goner after being traded to the Pirates — took over the role in style.
A best-case scenario for Richard is that he gets called up at some point and gives the Pirates a few spot starts or solid long relief when the bullpen is taxed. If that does work out, Richard may be able to extend his major league career a few more years.