With eye on big league return, Richard stays with Pirates

Veteran left-hander chooses not to exercise opt-out clause in contract

With eye on big league return, Richard stays with Pirates

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Veteran pitcher Clayton Richard declined to exercise the opt-out clause in his Minor League contract with the Pirates and will continue to work toward a Major League return in Florida.

The deal agreed upon Dec. 3 gave Richard, 31, the right to request his release from the Bucs if the club did not add him to its 40-man roster by March 31.

The left-hander is staying for the same reasons that drew him here: The chance to continue working with Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage and Jim Benedict, the pitching doctor on GM Neal Huntington's staff.

Richard had gotten a personal recommendation for Searage's and Benedict's ability to fix pitchers from Edinson Volquez, a onetime San Diego teammate who benefited greatly from their assistance during his one season with the Pirates a year ago.

Richard, a two-time 14-game winner with the Padres, is working his way back from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. In four Grapefruit League appearances, he has allowed four runs (three earned) in 8 2/3 innings, with two walks and seven strikeouts.

Huntington and Richard both feel the pitcher is "close to being Major League-ready." He will pitch extended spring camp games, and then he is expected to join Indianapolis. The Triple-A Indians play within an hour of Richard's Indiana home, another incentive for him to remain in the Pirates' organization.

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.