Had Garrett Richards struggled as a member of the Red Sox 2020 rotation, he would barely have had to look over his shoulder. The Red Sox were so bereft of major league quality pitching options that, time and again, pitchers were given additional chances. Simply put, there weren't any better alternatives -- and the record reflected that.
It's a measure of how much Chaim Bloom has improved the overall pitching depth in the organization that that is no longer the case. That, one supposes, is the good news for Bloom.
The bad news? His biggest free-agent acquisition -- at least as measured by 2021 salaries -- was Richards, whom he signed to a one-year $10 million deal with a club option for 2022. And through four starts, to call Richards a mixed bag so far would be generous. In his first one, Richards was blasted for six runs and couldn't get an out in the third inning.
His next two were better. He allowed two runs over five innings to a bad Orioles team, then overcame some bad luck and bad defense to limit the Twins to two unearned runs in five innings in last week's road trip finale.
Thursday night, however, there was no equivocating. Richards was brutally wild and completely ineffective. It's somehow miraculous, given the amount of traffic he allowed, that he lugged the Red Sox into the fifth inning, still somehow in the game.
Still, there was no getting around the ugly numbers: six walks in 4.2 innings, plus a hit batsman, plus a wild pitch. Before the game, Alex Cora conceded the Red Sox wanted Richards' slider to be better. It wasn't, of course, but even more troubling was his inability to command his fastball. His four-seamer was all over the place, though Cora attributed some of that wildness to be a function of the natural run that Richards has to his fastball.
But that seemed a polite assessment. Too often, Richards had no feel for most of his pitches, which was confirmed by the fact that of the 94 pitches he threw, just 48 -- a tick over half -- were in the strike zone.