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A chat with Clayton Richard

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, I had to opportunity to chat over the phone with Clayton Richard, who pitched for the Blue Jays in 2019 and struggled through injuries before being released in September. Here’s what he had to say about his struggles, playing on the 2019 Blue Jays and pitching in the National League.

You can also listen to our conversation here.

Mark: What was it like being traded to Toronto after spending so much time in San Diego?

Clayton Richard: Initially it was difficult, as is any change in life, just accepting that I’m not going back to where I was comfortable with, change for family, change for kind of everything involved in that. But the organization was so welcoming, the guys were so good in the clubhouse, on the staff, that they made the transition pretty seamless and enjoyable.

M: We hear a lot that players don’t want to come to Toronto. Did you feel that way?

CR: No, no. There’s clearly some things once you get up there that are a little different, just with the currency and those type of issues, but nothing as far as the people involved or the rotation or any of that. It all went pretty well.

M: Overall, how did you like playing in Toronto?

CR: I enjoyed it. I wish we would have played better, I wish I would’ve played a little bit better and been a little bit healthier, but as far as the experience, it was good.

M: You started the season without even a single start under your belt before getting injured. What were you feeling at that point?

CR: Unfortunately, I was coming off a few knee surgeries in the offseason, and I think I just pushed a little bit too much to be ready for the opening series and my body didn’t respond well, had a stress fracture in my shin, had to take some time off. But they did a good job helping me get back to the point where I could dig in.

M: Obviously, the Blue Jays are a rebuilding team, but this season there were guys like Vladdy and Bo and Cavan coming up. How was it playing on the Blue Jays this season?

CR: It was a unique experience, because there was so much young talent, and talent that doesn’t come by very often all together, and so it was pretty cool to kind of witness those guys come into their own at the big league level, and how advanced they were for how young they are. That was a really cool experience to see them evolve and get used to the big league schedule, big league life, everything about that.

M: What was going through your head when you were released by the Blue Jays?

CR: Unfortunately, it was a situation where I was coming off the lat injury and kind of understood my usage would have to be limited because of the health, and understood that where the Blue Jays are going and what they’re looking for, unfortunately I was not part of that. The business side, you gotta understand it from the personal side, it’s disappointing because you form those relationships and work with that group for all season, and you want to see through it, but that was just something we weren’t able to do this season.

M: Was 2019 tougher than other years for you?

CR: In some ways. Clearly, with the performance and the health, it was difficult. But that being said, it provides some opportunities playing in Toronto, getting to know Canada a little bit, a new organization, a lot of great young players. It didn’t go how I planned or necessarily how I wanted, but it was a good learning experience and something I’ll look back on and be appreciative of.

M: What’s next for you this offseason and next year?

CR: Right now, I’m currently getting ready to go with Team USA for the Premier 12 baseball tournament, which is a qualifier for the Olympics, so I’m pretty excited about that opportunity. We’re going down to Arizona pretty soon, and we’re there for about a week before we start the tournament in Mexico, then eventually going to Japan. That’s really exciting, I’m getting mentally and physically prepared for that. That’s my next thing going on.

M: I know you’ve spent almost all of your career in the NL, and you have quite a few hits under your belt, including three home runs. So, which do you like better — AL or NL?

CR: Just the game play, being in the National League for awhile, I appreciate that a little bit more. The game plan, the pitcher has to handle the bat — it makes a fan just really watching the game stay involved a little bit more, I think, just to see how a manager goes about handling the game as the innings come through and managing the bullpen, understanding that a double switch is in play, or those type of things. I think that it’s a lot of fun. I know that it’s likely the type of baseball that’s going to be coming to an end before long, and that’s kind of disappointing.

M: Do you like hitting?

CR: I wish I was better, I’d like it a little bit more. It’s a very difficult task.

M: Any postseason predictions?

CR: My son, he predicted before the postseason started the Nationals were going to win it all, and watching that series [inaudible] one of the best, but they’re going to have to go up against either Houston or New York, who, Houston’s got probably the best rotation and quite a lineup, so, either way, I think it’s going to be a very exciting World Series and I’m excited to watch it.

Parts of our conversation were edited for clarity.