Richard focusing on contributing, not his opt-out clause

Veteran lefty stretching out and preparing to start, whether with Pirates or other club

Richard focusing on contributing, not his opt-out clause

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Left-hander Clayton Richard's name comes up just about every time Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is asked about his club's rotation depth. It happened again after Richard pitched Thursday against the Braves.

"Clayton is a guy you have to talk about," Hurdle said.

The question at this point is whether Richard will remain with the club long enough to factor into that conversation. The 31-year-old lefty has an April 1 opt-out in his contract that would allow him to seek other opportunities if he's not put on the Bucs' 40-man roster.

Unfortunately, at this point, it's a question for which Richard doesn't have an answer.

"Going into camp, I knew that the opt-out was there, but it really hasn't been on my mind. I try not to think about it because I have no control over what happens to me in those instances," he said. "That's out of my control.

"What I can work on is getting ready to start games and be of help to a team however best [I] can help a team. Right now, that's stretching out. That's what I came to camp to do is get stretched out as a starter."

Richard also came to camp to work with pitching coach Ray Searage and special assistant Jim Benedict, looking to correct his delivery and kick some of the bad habits he developed while pitching with injuries over the last few years.

Richard found himself falling back into some of those habits as his outing went in the 7-5 loss to the Braves. He gave up four hits and couldn't get through three full innings, trying to get outs while putting into practice the changes he's made with Searage and Benedict.

"It's nothing drastic. It's not a habit yet," Richard said. "So until it becomes that, I cannot get to outings and then just forget about it. I've got to keep an eye on it and make sure I continue to stay there."

For the most part, though, Richard believes he's heading in the right direction.

"He has been making progress with each outing. It's been incremental progress," Hurdle said. "He's still fighting his way back and finding his way back. I think with each outing, there's some confidence building."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.