Red Sox News: Garrett Richards has been removed from the rotation

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 27: Garrett Richards #43 of the Boston Red Sox pitches in the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on April 27, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 27: Garrett Richards #43 of the Boston Red Sox pitches in the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on April 27, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

The Red Sox might be done using Garrett Richard as a starter

Garrett Richards has potentially made his final start in a Boston Red Sox uniform but could solidify the bullpen down the stretch.

It’s been a very disappointing season for Richards, who signed a one-year deal looking to restore his value in the wake of several injury-plagued seasons. The signing backfired with Richards producing a 5.22 ERA, 1.65 WHIP and 7.1 K/9.

During an appearance on WEEI, Alex Cora was asked if Tanner Houck would be available out of the bullpen for Wednesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays. It’s a fair question, considering Garrett Whitlock is presumably unavailable after throwing 37 pitches last night and Matt Barnes could use a break after melting down in three of his last four appearances. The bullpen could use some help and Houck hasn’t pitched since Sunday when he threw only 74 pitches in an abbreviated start.

The manager revealed that Houck won’t pitch in relief tonight but the bullpen will be getting reinforcement in the form of Richards, who apparently has lost his spot in the rotation.

Houck is expected to remain in the rotation with his next start scheduled for Friday against the Baltimore Orioles. He will be followed by the returning Chris Sale, making his first start in over two years.

Richards was penciled in to wrap up the series with the O’s on Sunday but there’s little reason to stick to that plan. With Sale back in the mix, Boston won’t need the extra starter. Eduardo Rodriguez should be ready to go on normal rest by Sunday.

The schedule lines up favorably in terms of aligning the rotation. The Red Sox have a doubleheader with the New York Yankees next Tuesday, one half of which is scheduled for E-Rod. With an off day on Monday, Boston can easily move Nick Pivetta up one day to face the Yankees if Rodriguez pitches in the finale against Baltimore. They can go back to Houck on Wednesday, then another scheduled off day on Thursday still allow the team to give Sale an extra day of rest before his next start against the Texas Rangers.

The Red Sox have their five-man rotation with some simple changes. Martin Perez and Richards are out, Houck and Sale are in.

There’s a chance that Richards is the odd man out when the Red Sox need to clear a 40-man roster spot to active Sale. If that’s the plan, they might as well try to get some innings out of his arm while they can.

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While calling for Richards out of the bullpen might seem like the equivalent of waiving the white flag, Cora indicated that the right-hander could be used in high-leverage situations when the team is narrowly trailing. He believes his stuff should pick up a tick in a relief role, which could make Richards a valuable asset to the bullpen. Is this wishful thinking or the manager speaking highly of a player he’s demoting in order to soften the blow?

For what it’s worth, Richards thrived in a relief role last September for the San Diego Padres. It was a brief sample, but he allowed only one run in five innings while striking out five with one walk.

Richards wouldn’t be the first struggling starter to find new life as a reliever. Perhaps he can carve out a role that provides some value down the stretch. Keeping him around on the roster also retains some depth in case another starter falls to injury.

As long as the Red Sox have five other healthy starters, there’s no reason to keep running Richards out every fifth day while expecting five-plus innings. That clearly hasn’t been working out well ever since MLB stopped pitchers from using sticky stuff to ramp up their spin rates. It seemed they were relying on Richards out of necessity, not by choice. With the rotation back at full strength, those days should mercifully be over.

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