Last month, Major League Baseball announced its plans to strictly enforce its foreign substance ban.
The decision was met with a fair amount of pushback, and the results have been imperfect so far to say the least.
He has been surprisingly open with the media about having to make adjustments now that he is unable to use sticky substances to get a grip.
"If I could stop sweating everything would be fine"
— NESN (@NESN) June 29, 2021
To put it bluntly, Richards has been horrible since the new rules were announced.
He has made four starts since the league came out with its plans to eliminate foreign substances and he has allowed four runs or more in all of those outings.
Over the span, he has pitched to a 9.18 ERA, allowed 11 hits in two separate starts, issued 10 free passes (including hit-by-pitches), and allowed a .390 opponent batting average and 1.159 opponent OPS.
Miraculously, the Red Sox have gone 3-1 in those games.
But it goes without saying that that’s an unsustainable trend.
If this is the type of pitcher Richards is going to be in the post-foreign substance era, how should the Red Sox handle it?
The Problem May Take Care Of Itself
Boston’s rotation has been full of pleasant surprises this season.
For one, Martin Perez has exceeded expectations with his 4.04 ERA through 16 starts.
While that number doesn’t blow you away, it would be the second-best mark of his 10-year career if it holds up.
Expectations were low for the lefty coming into the season, but he has been very reliable.
He has allowed three runs or fewer in 13 of his 16 starts, and the Red Sox are 10-6 when he gets the ball.
Perez aside, 28-year-old Nick Pivetta has been surprisingly good, too.
His 4.43 ERA doesn’t tell the whole story.
He had a rocky month of June which inflated his overall numbers, but the righty had a 3.78 ERA as recently as June 7.
Two bad outings skewed his season statistics.
The Red Sox are 11-5 when Pivetta takes the hill.
The struggling Richards, of course, has been the fifth starter to this point.
But if he continues to perform at a low level, he may force the Red Sox to make a move.
That might not be a problem, though.
With staff ace Chris Sale set to return this summer from Tommy John surgery, Boston is going to need to open up a rotation spot no matter what.
Chris Sale threw a simulated game against live hitters today 👀 pic.twitter.com/oidIvQfRNp
— MLB (@MLB) June 26, 2021
The timing of Richards’ struggles may end up being a non-issue.
The team could move him to the bullpen upon Sale’s return and kill two birds with one stone.
Whether or not Richards would find more success as a relief option remains to be seen, but it’s surely worth a shot.
One thing is certain: Boston has no shortage of rotation options.
Even if Sale wasn’t returning, the club would be able to turn to young stud Tanner Houck (who is currently with the Triple-A squad) to replace Richards in the rotation.
Houck has a career 1.98 ERA over six MLB outings.
He figures to join the team at some point this season.