From the bushes to the show, an update

Less than two years ago, I was seated at a South Atlantic League baseball game (low A ball) between the Hagerstown Suns and the visiting Greensboro Grasshoppers. Behind me were two Greensboro pitchers — Trevor Richards and Ben Meyer. They were charting the game.

As I discussed in this post, neither pitcher seemed destined to make the major leagues. Richards had been undrafted in 2015 coming out of a small college, and thus had to start his career with the Gateway Grizzlies of the Frontier League, an independent league. The Miami Marlins signed him in 2016 and he was pitching well for Greensboro. But the major leagues seemed a very long way off.

Meyer, who pitched for the University of Minnesota, was a 29th round pick in the 2015 draft. He was doing okay for Greensboro, but pitching okay at the Low A level doesn’t portend a major league career.

Nonetheless, both Richards and Meyer made the majors this year.

Richards’ season has been up and down. Literally. He began the season with Miami, was sent down to Triple A New Orleans, and is now back with the Marlins in their starting rotation.

Today, Richards was the starting pitcher for the Marlins in their game against the Washington Nationals in D.C. I attended.

Richards’ fast ball comes in at around 91 miles per hour, which is below the major league average. His go-to pitch is a change-up that was clocked today at around 84 mph.

The change-up baffled the Nationals hitters, but Richards couldn’t control it. He walked seven batters (one intentionally) in three-and-two-thirds innings. On the plus side, five of the 11 outs he recorded were strikeouts.

Richards’ control problem today wasn’t an anomaly. For the big league season, he’s now walked 29 batters in just under 57 innings. That won’t cut it.

However, last season in the minors, Richards walked only 30 batters in 146 innings, and he walked just four in 39 innings this year at New Orleans. So he’s not inherently wild.

When his lack of control got him into trouble today, Richards had to rely on his fastball more than I imagine he liked. Bad control and a 91 mph fastball can be a recipe for disaster.

Today, however, the Nats were in a forgiving mood, as they often have been this season. Washington scored only two runs off of Richards (and just two for the day). The Marlins won 10-2, but Richards didn’t pitch long enough to be credited with the win. It would have been his third at the big league level.

I was hoping for either a Nats win or a strong performance by Richards (or, ideally, both). I got neither. However, it was a perfect day for baseball and I enjoyed seeing Richards pitch. (Tanner Roark of the Nats, not so much).

Ben Meyer pitched mop-up relief against the Nationals the night before. It was his fifth appearance for the Marlins, all in relief. I didn’t attend the game and had turned it off by the time Meyer mopped up in an 18-4 Nationals victory. The numbers say that Meyer, like Richards, is walking too many batters, but the sample size for Meyer is small.

I’ll be looking opportunities to see Meyer work. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Marlins, a bad team, are on television much in the D.C. market.

The drive from Municipal Stadium in Hagerstown to Nats Park takes less than two hours in light traffic. In baseball terms, though, the two venues seem half a world apart. I’m glad the two young men sitting behind me that August day in Hagerstown two years ago both beat the odds and made it to the show — and quickly too.

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