Garret Richards’ Long Wait is Over

Credit: Padres

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Credit: Jerry Espinoza

The long wait is over for San Diego Padres’ right-handed pitcher Garrett Richards.

Following a bullpen session in Colorado, the Padres announced that pitcher Garrett Richards’ long wait would be over.  Richards will take the mound in Miller Park and start against the Milwaukee Brewers and Zach Davies 14 months after undergoing Tommy John surgery.  In the very good news department, he will not have to face Christian Yelich (last year’s National League MVP), as he’s out for six weeks with a broken knee cap. Reports indicate Richard’s pitch count will be in the 60-65 range.

The Padres signed Richards to a two-year, $15.5 million in December with the knowledge a year would be lost, but that he should be ready for the promised push to contention in 2020.  Adding an experienced starter to a staff of first and second-year pitchers certainly makes sense, however relying on a 31-year-old with a history of injury problems does have its risks.

Richards relies on a fastball/slider combination which has resulted in a 52.5 percent ground ball rate.  By comparison, Zack Greinke’s ground ball rate has measured at least 45 percent since 2015.  Until recently relying on a ground-ball pitcher would have been folly thanks to substandard infield defense.  However, with Fernando Tatis Jr. at short, Manny Machado at third, and Luis Uris presumably at second, the defenders should be up to the challenge in 2020.

Richards, a right-hander, sports a career WAR of 7.3, 45-38 record, 3.54 ERA and 1.249 WHIP with 7.8 K/9, and 3.24 BB/9.  Twice the Angels’ chose him as their opening day starter. Although a stalwart in the Los Angeles Angels’ rotation several years ago, Richards has been plagued by arm injuries. Since 2015, when he went 15-12, he hasn’t pitched an entire season.  In fact, he managed only 28 starts and 138 2/3 innings from 2016 to 2018.  However, the Padres were no doubt attracted by five seasons of a 3.15 ERA, among the lowest in the American League for pitchers with at least 500 innings.

Drafted in 2009, Richards had spent his entire big league career (2011-2018) with the Angels until now.  He’s been very close to Mike Trout as they’ve been roomies going back to their minor league days.  In 2016, he tried platelet-rich plasma and stem-cell injections but finally resorted to surgery.

Richards joins a pitching staff with even more question marks than when the season began.  Chris Paddack has been the lone bright spot so far.  Beyond Paddack, the Padres have more question marks than answers. Eric Lauer, Joey Lucchesi, and Cal Quantrill have had uneven results.  Dinelson Lamet has the stuff but can’t be called a sure thing.  Ronald Bolanos has shown some promise but in a very small sample size.  Matt Strahm and Nick Margevicius teased at first but then faltered.  And what about highly ranked prospects, MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patino?  Both have been shut down for the rest of this year, Gore with an innings limit and Patino with a finger injury but could certainly be called up next year.  After all, under general manager A.J. Preller, San Diego has chosen to skip the usual minor league progression for young pitchers like Paddack.

During the offseason, the Padres will undoubtedly continue to search for another proven, veteran arm, in addition to Richards. Whether or not he can recapture past glory remains to be seen, but he does bring a wealth of experience to add to a young, and potentially even younger, pitching staff.

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