The 2016 San Diego Padres starting rotation has been unconventional to say the least. In total there have been 14 starters to take the mound over the span of the season. The Opening Day starter Tyson Ross, was shelled by a potent Dodgers lineup that day and hasn’t since pitched a game after sustaining a shoulder injury. Then, we all experienced the James Shields debacle predicating his shipment off to the White Sox. In general, the starters have been plagued by injury and inconsistency.
All that said, there have been some bright spots to be sure. Drew Pomeranz, slated as a bottom of the rotation dice roll at the beginning of the season ended up being the Padres’ all-star ace going into the break, eventually turning into serious trade bait and landing the Pads their #1 prospect Anderson Espinoza. Luis Perdomo went from being another gamble, (a Rule-5 draft pick who had never seen a game above class Single-A advanced ball) to a guy who just pitched a complete game on August 28 against the Marlins for a big win.
Edwin Jackson signed a minor league deal with the team in June and since filling a slot in the big league rotation has been intermittently lights out, most recently as he struck out 11 Red Sox on Labor Day. Finally, there’s one more feel good story for Padres fans who have been around for a little while. I’m speaking of the pleasantly successful return of Clayton Richard as a Padre starter.
Clayton Richard was selected in the eighth round of the 2005 MLB draft by the White Sox. In 2009 he made 14 starts for the White Sox before being traded along with three other players to the Padres on July 31, for Jake Peavy. Richard became an integral part of the Padres’ rotation from the time that he was acquired until the early part of the 2013 season. From 2010-12 he held a 3.88 ERA with 5.4 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 over 520 frames. In 2010 he pitched his first career shutout on September 21 and started 33 games for the Padres that year. Again in 2012 Richard started 33 games for the Pads which tied for second most in the National League.
In 2013 Richard got off to rough start, posting an 8.54 ERA in his first six starts. An intestinal virus forced him onto the disabled list on May 5. After returning on May 27, Richard continued to struggle and on June 21 he injured his shoulder resulting in season ending surgery. After the season, he refused outright assignment and elected free agency. And so the first era of Clayton Richard in San Diego came to an end. In February 2014 he underwent Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery.
In 2014 Richard didn’t see any big league time but played in Double-A and Triple-A with the Diamondbacks organization. One fun tidbit; Richard played under current Padres manager Andy Green while he was managing the Double-A team in Mobile. In 2015 Richard started off the year in Triple-A with the Pirates and did so well that the Cubs acquired him for cash. With the Cubs he worked mostly out of the bullpen but did make some spot starts. He commanded a 3.88 ERA in 42 1/3 innings with the Cubs between 2015-16. He was especially effective in the 2015 post season pitching 4 2/3 scoreless innings. On August 3 Richard was released by the Cubs to make roster space for their newly acquired flame thrower Aroldis Chapman. On August 6th the Padres signed Richard to the major league deal that brought him home to San Diego.
Richard has seen four strong starts in 2016 with the Padres. He has an impressive 1.48 ERA in 24.1 innings pitched. His first start back was on August 14 against the Mets. He went five innings, allowing only two runs on three hits. Unfortunately, his effort was no match for Steven Matz who got the win with his masterful near shutout. Richard looked a little sloppy in his next start against the Diamondbacks on August 20, giving up a run in each of two consecutive innings as a result of his own throwing errors from the mound. His offense didn’t do too much to help him against a hot Robbie Ray. The Padres only lost that game by a small margin of 2-1.
Richard’s last two starts have been very solid. On August 27 against the Marlins, Richard went a season-high seven innings to help the Padres beat the Marlins 1-0 and snap the team out of a four-game losing streak. He pitched 63 of 94 pitches for strikes that day. In his most recent start on September 3, Richard pitched five innings of one run ball against the Dodgers. He struck out four and walked only one. Maybe the most impressive thing about this outing was Richard’s ability to get out of a jam. While allowing ten base runners Richard stranded nine and allowed just one extra-base hit.
So far it’s looking like the Padres may have found another hidden gem in Clayton Richard. Among us Friar Faithful there’s surely a decent number that are rooting for the guy. He gave us some good years not so long ago and he’s back, keeping us competitive in the games that he starts. We don’t often get to be too sentimental with our favorite players because they don’t always last long with the organization. So it’s nice to see a familiar face doing well. With the ever-changing nature of the Padres’ pitching staff its hard to tell if Richard factors into the future but for now its fun to enjoy his current success. Lets see if he can keep the momentum going Thursday night in the series opener against the Rockies.