Monday, September 28, 2009

Just another day for Dustin Richardson

It was just another day for Dustin Richardson -- which is to say that he was wide awake at 5 a.m. and ready to go.

By 9 p.m., he was making his major-league debut.

The 6-foot-5 lefty fell into something of a routine during his week in Fort Myers, Fla., staying sharp by throwing in Fall Instructional League games just in case the Red Sox needed his services. He'd gone home to Kansas at the conclusion of the Triple-A season for about a week and a half, playing catch but not doing much else, but he headed to Fort Myers about 10 days ago when director of player development Mike Hazen alerted him that he might be needed in Boston.

He remained on call for a few days but relaxed a little bit when Hunter Jones was recalled to replace Junichi Tazawa on the Red Sox pitching staff, taking the spot Richardson had wondered if he'd fill. Since he had a chance to throw some extra innings and refine his repertoire, though, the starter turned reliever kept right on pitching.

"He came up and he threw the ball hard," said Triple-A Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson, who had Richardson for a couple of weeks at the end of the season and reunited with him at Fenway Park. "I liked his stuff. When you look at him, he's a very physical kid. He's got good velocity on the fastball and the breaking ball. You don't want to lose your head with guys because they've all earned the right to develop at their levels, but I was very excited with him."

Workouts in Florida normally start at 7 a.m., but Richardson seemed to have accidentally programmed his body clock to get him out of bed at the crack of dawn -- or earlier. Every morning in Fort Myers, he was up and ready to go far before it was necessary.

(That might have something to do with his post-workout routine: "It doesn't help that when I get done with my day at noon, I go home and nap for about six hours," he said.)

He was scheduled to throw two innings today as part of a Red Sox team that includes most of the team's June draft class as well as international free agent Jose Inglesias, a 19-year-old shortstop signed in July for a little over $8 million. He was on his way to the bullpen -- it was a little bit past noon at this point -- when word came down that he'd been scratched from his appearance.

Josh Beckett was suffering from mild back spasms and wouldn't be making his start. Michael Bowden was pitching in his stead but on short rest. It was just the type of emergency for which the Red Sox had been keeping Richardson warm.

Ten or 15 minutes later, the lefty was in the shower and on his way to the airport to catch a plane to Boston. He caught the flight at 3 p.m., and he arrived in the Red Sox locker room just in time to pull on his uniform and try to walk to the bullpen as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

"It took me until about the third inning to finally realize I was a baseball player again," he said. "I just wanted to hit the fast-forward button and get out there and get it over with."

Said Johnson, who has relayed his share of good news in his years with Pawtucket, "It's always the same look. You see a little perkiness in the face -- and there's that gleam.

Bowden and Hunter Jones did their part to fast-forward his experience for Richardson, surrendering a combined 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings to the Blue Jays. Red Sox manager Terry Francona decided in the fifth inning that he'd had enough, and he called upon his newest rookie with two outs and two runners on and All-Star second baseman Aaron Hill at the plate.

It's tough to say Richardson was intimidated by the prospect of facing Hill, who had hit his 35th home run of the season earlier in the game.

"Honestly," he said to reporters after the game, "you ask, but I could not tell you who I faced. I could not tell you who I faced."

He had every right to be exhausted. He'd missed his afternoon nap. He'd been up since before the sun rose.

But there was no slowing down his pulse on the mound, and there was no slowing it down in the locker room after the game, either.

"It hasn't stopped yet," he said.

1 comment:

Kerri said...

He missed his afternoon nap! love it. Dustin did great out there tonight! great post. Thanks