Red Sox move struggling Garrett Richards to bullpen with Chris Sale’s return on the horizon

The Red Sox have removed right-hander Garrett Richards from their starting rotation and have moved him to the bullpen, manager Alex Cora announced Wednesday.

Richards, who would have in been line to start on Saturday, will be available out of the bullpen in Tuesday night’s contest against the Rays at Fenway Park.

Saturday’s game against the Orioles, of course, will be started by none other than ace left-hander Chris Sale, who will be making his 2021 debut for the Sox.

In his latest start against the Blue Jays in Toronto this past Sunday, the veteran right-hander surrendered four runs — three of which were earned — on six hits and one walk to go along with two strikeouts over five innings of work, bringing his ERA on the season up to 5.22 over 22 starts (110 1/3 innings pitched).

Richards, 33, originally signed a one-year, $10 million deal with Boston in February after spending the previous two seasons with the Padres. He got lit up for six runs over just two innings in his Red Sox debut in early April, but settled in nicely for a spell after that.

From April 10 through June 11 — a stretch of more than two months, the Oklahoma native put up a respectable 3.42 ERA with 59 strikeouts and 32 walks across 12 starts spanning 68 1/3 innings of work.

Things took a turn for the worst for Richards in mid-June, however, and it came right around the same time Major League Baseball began enforcing stricter policies in regards to pitchers using foreign substances (“sticky stuff”) to enhance their grip on the baseball.

Including an outing against the Braves on June 16 in which he allowed six runs (four earned) in just four innings, Richards has posted an unsightly 7.55 ERA and 1.056 OPS against over his last seven starts and 31 innings pitched, with that start against the Blue Jays over the weekend being the latest instance of his prolonged summer struggles.

Because of these struggles, the Red Sox obviously felt it was time to make a change and opted to move a member of their Opening Day starting rotation to the bullpen for a second time in less than a week as Richards joins the likes of left-hander Martin Perez, whose spot has essentially been handed over to Tanner Houck.

Like Perez, though, Richards does have major-league experience working as a reliever, and Cora believes both hurlers can benefit from the move to the ‘pen while also serving key roles for Boston’s pitching staff moving forward.

Prior to joining the Red Sox over the winter, Richards — who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds — made 59 total relief appearances over the course of 10 big-league seasons with the Angels and Padres.

Most recently, the former Oklahoma Sooner was used out of the bullpen by San Diego for the home stretch of the truncated 2020 campaign, as it was his first “full” season back since undergoing Tommy John surgery in July 2018 while he was still with the Angels.

In four appearances out of the Padres’ ‘pen last September, Richards pitched to the tune of a 1.80 ERA while holding opposing batters to a .167/.211/.389 slash line against over five total innings of work.

While it’s no sure thing Richards will find success as he transitions to a relief role with the Red Sox on account of the difficulties he has already endured this season, one would have to assume that his fastball and curveball, both of which possess elite spin rates, will play better out of the bullpen than they did the starting rotation. We will have to wait and see on that.

(Picture of Garrett Richards: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Author: Brendan Campbell

Blogging about the Boston Red Sox since April '17. Also support Tottenham Hotspur.

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