Richard feels good after longest outing of spring

Richard feels good after longest outing of spring

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The second-best left-handed pitcher in the Major Leagues named "Clayton" (there are only two of them) was all smiles after his longest outing of Spring Training.

Clayton Richard also confirmed having an "out" in the Minor League contract he signed with the Pirates on Dec. 3 -- but hopes not to have to use it.

Richard said he's not even sure of the date when he could be released from the contract, adding, "Everyone here has been so great, the opportunity they gave me this spring has been terrific. I'm very grateful for everything going on here, and I'm more than happy to be here."

Trying to rebound from surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome, Richard has allowed two runs in six total innings, and followed up outings of one inning and two with a three-inning turn in the Bucs' 6-5 walk-off win over Philadelphia here Thursday. He pitched well, and felt even better.

"It was nice to feel as good in the third, if not better, than in the first," said Richard, who did give up two runs in his first inning of relief work, then gained traction. "Today, the command wasn't quite there, but feeling good and being able to make adjustments was nice."

"First inning, he had that turbulence ... then he settled down," manager Clint Hurdle said.

Richard could have credited the thankless PFP (pitchers fielding practice) for keeping his pitching effort respectable. The Phillies were again after him in the eighth, with a man on third and one out, when Rene Garcia uncoiled to lay down a suicide-squeeze bunt. Richard foiled the play by quickly fielding the ball and flipping it to catcher Tony Sanchez for the tag out on the runner.

Hurdle called the three-inning outing "significant, because we wanted to get his pitch count up to around 50, give him a volume of work."

Richard, in camp on that Minor League deal and by invitation, is too preoccupied with his own progress to worry about where it might lead.

"I have enough to worry about getting myself ready," he said. "I try not to worry about when the opportunity might come, because I have no control over that. I just want to do everything I can to be ready for the team when the need is there."

Touching all the bases
• First: Pirates catchers had a good day. Between the split-squad games here and in Fort Myers against Minnesota, Tony Sanchez, Sebastian Valle and Francisco Cervelli were 4-for-7 with two homers and four RBIs.

Cervelli's two-homer game

• Second: Pedro Alvarez is 3-for-7 with a double and a homer off southpaws thus far this spring.

• Third: Gregory Polanco just got under a couple of hard-hit flyouts before a seventh-inning single that snapped his 0-for-10 slump.

• Home: Hurdle hosted a Friday night "Hot Stove" Fundraiser to benefit the Prader-Willi Syndrome Association at a local hotel; the event was emceed by Bucs broadcaster Tim Neverett.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.