Boston Red Sox: Garrett Richards becoming a viable bullpen option

This season has been a wild ride for Red Sox right-handed Garrett Richards. The 33-year-old has been rejuvenated out of the bullpen. On Friday night, Richards took the mound in a high leverage situation for manager Alex Cora.

Richards was perfect in the eighth inning on Friday day, holding down the Indians offense. He was able to protect a one-run lead. The Sox took the lead in the top of the eighth when Jonathan Araùz hit a three-run home run.

Richards has pitched in three straight games which is something he has not been accustomed to over his career. The veteran righty is expected to be unavailable for Sunday’s series finale against Cleveland.

“Worst year” of his career

Three weeks ago following the Red Sox loss to the Tigers 4-2, Richards was calling this season the worst of his career. Following his seventh loss of the season, Richards shared his self-analysis of his 2021 season.

“It’s frustrating,” said Richards. “This has been the worst year of my career. So just trying to find a way to give us a chance to win every night and take steps forward.”

Richards is 6-7 this season with a 4.86 ERA, 1.591 WHIP and 99 strikeouts over 120 2/3 innings. Since Richards demotion from the rotation to the bullpen, he has thrived.

In six games out of the bullpen, Richards owns a 0.87 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 12 strikeouts and he’s held his opponents to a .184 batting average.

Sticky situation

Richards has had an up and down first season with the Red Sox. The Sox signed the veteran to to a one-year, $10M guarantee over the offseason. His deal also contains a club option currently valued at $10.25 million with potential escalators for the 2022 campaign.

Richards struggled in the early part of the year after MLB cracked down on the use of sticky substances. Over the course of his starts prior to his demotion to the bullpen, Richards looked like he was laboring in his outings.

“It has changed pretty much everything for me,” Richards said. “It’s changed a lot for me,” said Richards. “I feel like I need to be a different pitcher than I have been the last nine-and-a-half years.”

Garrett Richards a viable bullpen option?

Richards is now being relied upon in higher leverage spots in the later innings. He is being placed in those situations due to Matt Barnes second-half struggles and because the bullpen doesn’t have set roles for the current relievers.

Richards getting the ball in a meaningful inning in October is becoming necessary because the team failed to adequately add pieces to the bullpen. Austin Davis has been good since coming from Pittsburgh but Hansel Robles has been ineffective.

If Richards can maintain this consistency out of the bullpen, he will quickly help change the narrative on him from this season. The Red Sox are going to need reliable pieces for October and so far Richards looks the part. The question will remain whether or not the moment will be too big for him in the postseason?

– Chris Henrique (@ChrisHenrique on Twitter)

Feature image courtesy of Josh Bessex / AP photo

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