Yesterday was the fourth start by maybe the most significant offseason free agent brought into the Boston Red Sox by Chaim Bloom, Garrett Richards.
It was not pretty.
Continuing on the trend across his four starts, Richards failed to go deep into the game and posted yet again an ERA north of 6.00. He was lifted after just 4.2 innings pitched, having walked six batters as he struggled with control issues.
Being the highest annual salary free agent acquisition from the Red Sox offseason, Richards has failed to live up to the guaranteed $10MM contract so far.
Richards has pitched just 16.2 innings, walked 13 out of the 83 batters faced, and posting a disappointing 6.48 ERA. He's thrown 58% of his pitches for strikes and getting a 9% swing and miss rate, which are all symptoms of his control issues.
Currently, Richards is the most worrisome Red Sox starter:
When asked about his latest control issues against the Blue Jays, Richards was rather nonplussed.
“I just think the delivery was off a little bit tonight,” Richards said. “I was kind of fighting it the whole night. And then obviously, couldn’t get my release point under control. Just kind of a combination of things. Nothing that can’t be fixed.”
How many starts do the Red Sox wait before they decide it can't be fixed?
Well, the answer is of course more complicated than that and the Red Sox are going to stay with Richards
until the bitter end for several reasons. The first would be the $10MM investment that he takes with him this year if given his walking papers or if he makes 30 starts. That's not something Bloom wants to contemplate, explaining why his major rotation piece is dropped early in the year.
Another issue is that the Red Sox have is that Richards has more than five years of service time (in his ninth year now) and can't be sent to the minor leagues without his consent. There is probably no scenario where he agrees to go down to the minors when he can walk away with his full salary and look for another job as a free agent.
While the choices made by the Red Sox have them tied tightly to Richards, there is the situation where Tanner Houck has been exceeding expectations since he was brought up last season. This year he's stuck in minor league purgatory due to being the only pitcher with options in the above starting rotation.
Houck is the best sixth starter you could want to have as depth for your starting rotation, but what do you do when he's beter than several of your current starters?
The Red Sox are going to keep him working on a third pitch down in the minors and having him ready should there be a need or injury.
In the mean time, Richards thinks he can fix his release points and other control issues between now and his next start in New York against the Mets. Manager Alex Cora was saying all the right things at this point and noted that he can't expect to stay in the rotation with only a fastball working for him.
“He can work on it in between starts,” Cora said. “He’s an established big-leaguer with a track record. He has been working on it but we have to find it. We have to find that pitch. It’s hard to maneuver a big-league lineup with one pitch. It seems like it has been that way during the season. If we can get that pitch back to what it was in the past and use the curveball good, we’re going to have the guy we envisioned before the season.”
Fixing the slider might be the salvation for Richards, but if not, the Red Sox have cut players that cost much more in Pablo Sandoval. They are not shy in moving on if the need is there, but for the foreseeable future we're going to be watching Richards every fifth start and holding our breath.
Eric is a contributing writer since 2013 and a true Overseas Fan of the Boston Red Sox living in the Netherlands. He's spent years on baseball fields around the world pitching. His weekends are now spent helping the next generations of pitchers to find their passion and love for the sport. More articles by Eric: https://www.redsoxlife.com/search/label/ericschabell