When Clayton Richard walked off the field Saturday night, Cubs fans gave the 31-year-old lefty a standing ovation. It was a moment that at one point felt improbable at best.
“It was awesome. It was really cool,” Richard said. “It’s probably the first time I’ve had something like that, so I really enjoyed it.”
In his Cubs debut, Richard went 6 1/3 innings and allowed two earned runs. It was the completion of a long and winding road for Richard, who was an eighth-round pick of the White Sox in 2005.
Traded to San Diego in 2009 as part of a package for Jake Peavy, Richard started 107 games for the Padres. His final big-league appearance with San Diego (or anywhere prior to Saturday) was June 21, 2013 before undergoing shoulder surgery on July 15.
In February 2014, Richard underwent Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery and was signed that July by the Arizona Diamondbacks to a minor-league deal. That December Richard joined the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he had an upward mobility clause in his contract that effectively said if he wasn’t in the majors by June 30 he would be available for other teams.
“I was very thankful for the opportunity I got (with Pittsburgh) and the path that they put me on,” Richard said. “I’m very fortunate to have this opportunity here.”
The Cubs acquired him Friday for cash considerations, giving him a chance to throw on a big-league mound for the first time in two years and after a process that included some doubt.
“Give him credit, man. He was really under control emotionally,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He was good.”
The night was better than that for Richard, who was able to share the night with family from nearby Lafayette, Indiana.
“It was the best. It was,” Richard said. “The whole game I looked up for my family. Didn’t see them until the very end when I was walking off, so it was a real special moment.”