In the midst of all of the negativity surrounding the San Diego Padres’ pitching staff, there is one stabilizing factor. The club is indeed very fortunate to have veteran Clayton Richard.
When Clayton Richard signed with the San Diego Padres on August 6th, 2016, the southpaw had just been released by the Chicago Cubs three days earlier after starting the season with a 6.43 ERA through 25 appearances.
Fast-forward just six months, and Richard is in a position even he would have never expected. With Opening Day just two months away, the 33-year-old is the front runner to take the mound for San Diego.
Padres fans would not be feeling too optimistic about their chances in 2017 if they were told six months ago that Richard would be their ace. And while many still remain skeptical, the club is in better hands with Richard than they were with Tyson Ross.
As a nine year veteran, the left-hander is preparing for a return to the rotation. After spending 2009-2013 with the club, the 33-year-old made 45 of his last 48 appearances coming out of the bullpen with the Cubs. With this not working out too well as previously mentioned, it has become evident that Richard is most effective as a starter.
When the Lafayette, Indiana native returned to the Padres’ rotation for the final two months of 2016, his mechanics began to click. In 53 and 2/3 innings, Richard surrendered just 15 earned runs, striking out 31.
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The home run ball is still a liability, as Richard gave up 31 long balls in a forgettable 2012. But even this was improved on in a stable nine starts last season, as the veteran gave up only four.
Ultimately, the Padres are extremely fortunate to have acquired Richard last season. With a young rotation with capable but inexperienced starters such as Jhoulys Chacin and Christian Friedrich, allowing Richard to take on a leadership role will strike a perfect balance. On one hand, the young rotation will still be given the opportunity at the major league level and the experience necessary to complete their development. But on the other hand, they will still have a leader like Richard who can confidently open the season and serve as a staple on the mound every five days.
Richard’s professional attitude coupled with his improvement in the later stages of 2016 give fans reason to be confident in their veteran starter this coming season. Also, the fact that he is a left-hander presents a different look to opponents for an otherwise righty-heavy rotation. As strange as it may sound, Clayton Richard may be the club’s greatest asset in 2017.