A great American poet once wrote that "maybe everything that dies some day comes back," and today that is the case with Clayton Richard's Padres career. Richard spent this year and last in the Cubs' bullpen, but found himself on the outside looking in when he was released two days ago after putting up the line of a 6.43 ERA with seven strikeouts, seven walks, and 23 hits in just 14 innings over 25 appearances. With the Cubs working on a dream, vying to go to the promised land for the first time since 1945, they couldn't afford to keep throwing Richard into the fire, so he was out of work. The Padres, on the other hand, are lost in the flood this season and need all the spare parts they can get to patch together a pitching staff, so took a chance on Richard, who spent his glory days of 2009 through 2013 down San Diego way.
Richard never lived up to the promise that many thought he had when he came to the Padres in the 2009 trade of Jake Peavy to the White Sox, but even his marginal performance in navy and sand was worlds apart from this year's disaster in blue pinstripes. He was never, and was never expected to be, the man at the top of the rotation, but he certainly had better days, going 40-39 with a 4.34 ERA and 1.376 WHIP in 108 games, of which he started 107, with the Padres. Those numbers wouldn't be quite as bad if not for his disastrous 2013 campaign, which ended with him needing surgery on his shoulder and then for thoracic outlet syndrome after going 2-5 with a 7.01 ERA and 1.633 WHIP in 52.2 innings over a dozen games. Clayton missed all of 2014 but, showing dedication and no surrender, didn't just fade away; he put together an exceptional 2015 for the Cubs.
While it's still unknown whether the tall lefty will be signed to a major league deal or be sent to the badlands of AAA El Paso to try to tie up loose ends in his delivery before taking one step up, there's reason to believe Richard isn't ready to hang up his cleats and go back to the real world yet. While no one has high hopes, perhaps the human touch of pitching coach Darren Balsley can once again work magic. To be true, it's a leap of faith, but Richard is living proof that having a hungry heart can take you far in baseball, much like life itself; his recovery from numerous surgeries has shown Clayton is tougher than the rest. He's still not likely to be a local hero, but tomorrow never knows.