Clayton Richard’s roster status is going to be a hot issue over the next few days. His role with the team will also be a big question mark. The left-hander came in for the seventh inning today, slated to throw 60 pitches. He lasted 2.2 innings, running into trouble in his third inning of work before leaving and throwing some extra pitches in the bullpen.

The maximum that Richard could have reached today was three innings. Meanwhile, most starters are well beyond that, with Vance Worley throwing six innings today, and Gerrit Cole throwing 5.1 innings and 100 pitches at Pirate City. That raises the question of whether he’s still in line to be starting depth, or whether he will be a long-relief option.

Clint Hurdle mentioned Richard as one of the starting depth options. He also said that Richard might have one more outing where he could get one more inning, pushing him up to four innings of work. Still, that wouldn’t get him ready to be a starter by Opening Day.

Richard has been working on some mechanical changes, which I outlined a few weeks ago. His issue is very similar to Vance Worley from last year, where he had his mechanics thrown off after an injury. The Pirates are trying to get him back to where he was in 2010.

“He has been making progress with each outing,” Hurdle said of the changes. “It’s been incremental progress. There is life to the fastball. The two-seamer has played. He’s worked in the breaking ball at times, and the changeup. The command overall has been good. He’s fighting his way back and finding his way back. With each outing, there’s some confidence building.”

Richard said that the changes are going in the right direction, and that he did well with them in the first two innings today.

“It’s not a habit yet,” Richard said of taking the changes in the game. “So until it becomes that, I can not get to outings and then just forget about it.”

One issue complicating matters is that Richard has an opt out, which Travis Sawchik reported last week. Richard believes is on March 31st. That would allow him to opt out of his deal and become a free agent if he’s not added to the 40-man roster by that date. Even if he is added to the 40-man, he has enough service time that he could decline a minor league assignment and become a free agent. That might make sense if another team was willing to give him a starting role, although he’d have no way of knowing that job was out there before making a decision, and that new team would also have the capability of optioning him to the minors.

“Early on in camp I knew that the opt out was there, but it really hasn’t been on my mind,” Richard said. “I try not to think about it, because I have no control what happens to me.”

Richard said that his role hasn’t changed since the start of camp.

“There hasn’t been anything changed since I got to camp, where I have been informed of it,” Richard said of whether the Pirates might be moving him to long relief versus keeping him as a starter.

The best case scenario would be for the Pirates to retain Richard, keep him in extended Spring Training to continue getting stretched out and work on his mechanical adjustments, then send him to Indianapolis when he’s ready, where he could be used as starting depth. That’s the same approach they took with Vance Worley last year. We’ll see how they handle things in the next few days, as they have until early next week to make a decision on how to handle Richard.

Fifth Starter Decision Coming Soon?

Clint Hurdle didn’t say whether he was going with Vance Worley or Jeff Locke, but it sounds like the move could come sooner, rather than waiting for the end of camp.

“I anticipate we’re going to need to make a decision sooner than later with them, just so they can both post up knowing what they’re going to do next,” Hurdle said.

Worley threw six innings today, and Locke has another outing tomorrow.

“You want the guy that’s going to get the start to know when he’s going to start so that he can finish off Spring Training and know his schedule,” Hurdle said.

The loser of the battle will go to the bullpen, and could serve as starting depth. Hurdle said that he felt either pitcher could make the transition back to the rotation, even if they started in the bullpen. However, that statement might have an expiration date.

“If you’re down there for a long time, down there for a month and you don’t throw more than 35 pitches, then it’s going to be a challenge,” Hurdle said on making the transition back to starting. “Whoever it is, that man will be in a role where you’re looking for him to pitch more than multiple innings. You’re looking for him for three, or if a starter gets knocked out early, to carry four somewhere along those lines to keep the pitch count in play, to keep them strong, so they could seamlessly transition back to the rotation.”

Hurdle talked briefly about the rotation depth, also mentioning Richard, Nick Kingham, and Casey Sadler as options.

“We drop down about nine, ten deep now, which is a very good place to be,” Hurdle said on the starting options.

Cuts Coming Tomorrow

Hurdle said that the Pirates will meet tonight and discuss the next round of cuts. Expect those to come tomorrow morning.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. I know its just Spring Training, but as of right now the #4 and #5 spots in the rotation are train wrecks….Morton, Locke, Worley – all have not looked very good thus far. I wasn’t expecting Cy Young and Walter Johnson in those spots, but they have all been pretty awful. Today it was Worley’s turn to give the team no chance to win.

    I don’t understand why the team limited the competition for those spots to those three, when we have guys like Kingham, Sampson, etc. who could easily be an upgrade over all of them.

    OTOH, the bullpen looks pretty strong – with only Bastardo pitching sub par so far.

    • Its been said over and over, but take ST with a grain of salt. You give those guys the nod over the young guys because you know where guys are development wise. Sampson and Kingham need some work (particularly Sampson) before being ML ready. All 3 other guys have experience and are (either at times or in general) ML arms. Plenty of good arms dont have great stats in ST (Price, Hamels, etc). Guys are working on simply getting into game shape and up to 100 pitches to be ready for the season.

      If anything, Morton looking not great may actually help them hold him back and keep Locke in the rotation for a few weeks and let the bullpen arms play. I’m not super worried that Worley or Morton will go into meltdown mode this year because of their ST stats in 20 innings.

      • Yeah, choosing any of Liz, Sampson, Richards, or Kingham over Locke, Worley, or Morton because of Spring Training performance would unquestionably be flawed process, but I’m even less convinced the club has the right plan with Charlie than I was earlier this winter.

        I don’t understand the logic of aggressively pushing a guy into the Opening Day rotation who not only is working on a major mechanical adjustment, but also spent the majority of the off season rehabbing from a significant surgery. Just don’t see the rush.

        • I was really hoping they would use the struggles as a reason to get him on the DL and let him work things out before being on the roster. Lets Locke stay totally stretched out, Worley gets a clear spot and Morton works on his stuff. Doesnt seem like they are moving that direction, so hopefully they see more with Morton right now than us.

    • R: Worley has pitched well in ST on an overall basis. I think he gave up 5 runs and about that many hits in the 1st inning, then pitched another 5 innings giving up only 2 or 3 hits and ZERO runs, 12GB/2FO, and I think he leads the SP’s in GB % and WHIP. Locke has been inconsistent, but has had only one truly bad outing against the Astro’s; Morton is just not ready at this point and only had one truly bad game, also against the Astro’s.

      Why only these 3? Worley is 27-22, 3.75 ERA in 73 MLB Starts; Locke is 18-19, 4.00 ERA in 61 MLB Starts – both are only 27 and both have 4 years of team control remaining. Morton is only 36-61, 4.50 ERA in 134 MLB Starts, but has been much better as “Ground Chuck”.

      I expect Nick Kingham to be in the Pittsburgh Rotation by mid-June. Taillon may follow in Jul/Aug. Had Cumpton not gone down early, I would have expected Locke to be traded by now in a package including others for a LH hitting or switchhitting minor league 3B .

  2. It amazes me how the pirates can keep turning a pumpkin into a coach, it does not always work sometimes the pumpkin rots on the vine thinking it’s just fine and wants to remain a pumpkin. For those pumpkins that want a little more out of life there are always the pittsburgh pirates turning pumpkins into coaches since 1887.

  3. John Perrotto wrote on DK blog that Bucs have decided not to option Hughes or Holdzkom.
    Heard anything like that Tim?

    • I feel like more often than is needed Perrotto tends to throw something at the wall and hope it sticks…and if it doesnt he excuses his way out of why it was wrong. Not a ton of trust in him for me.

      • for decades he wrote for Baseball America and he was the only info outlet to the Bucs…way before the internet was a household name.

        • Right, i dont doubt his ability to write well. I’m just acknowledging that it is possible to be a talented writer and still be a less than thorough reporter in terms of ensuring what you say is for sure. Some of it is the nature of reporting, its a fluid situation that is apt to change. But the issue with writing for a blog is that it inherently takes away the pressure to ensure your stuff. Im skeptical the team is letting anyone know their plans for the rotation this far out of OD, particularly since the blog feeds into more of the “sale the team” type section of yinzers.

          I think similarly of DK, in that he is a solid writer and likely solid guy….but he had (and still has) issues with the FO that can at times influence his handling of reporting. Such as the Martin situation where he lambasted the team for signing him, citing batting average type stats as proof. A year later when people mentioned how he missed on that one, he denied being so negative about the signing and deleted the posts. Great writer, wise in terms of making money via his blog, at times human enough to make stupid petty moves.

            • Absolutely agree, they arent on the same level. I have a rather high level of respect for Dejan as a writer…but for me it ends there. He grinds an ax too much for me in his attitude toward the FO. But, to each his own.

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