Trevor Richards gives the Blue Jays the jack-of-all-trades they've desperately needed

The Blue Jays have needed a pitcher to patch the many leaks that have sprung on their staff
Toronto Blue Jays v Chicago White Sox
Toronto Blue Jays v Chicago White Sox / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

The Toronto Blue Jays and their fans have experienced a roller-coaster of ups and downs in 2024. Nowhere has this been more evident than on the pitching staff as a whole. When Alek Manoah trudged off the mound in Chicago and eventually lost for the season, there was a palpable sense of panic in the Blue Jays' nest because of the uncertainty this would leave on the rest of the pitching staff. There was disappointment for Manoah who had gone through so much over the past year, but also questions about how the rest of the group would pick up the slack. The bullpen had been leaking plenty of oil and the starting pitching was facing questions about depth and performance after a career year.

In stepped Trevor Richards, who demonstrated his poise during that emergency outing in Chicago and in multiple appearances afterwards. The pundits like to say that versatility is becoming more of an important skill on the position player side. Versatility is even more important for pitchers in an era of openers and bullpen games, a situation the Blue Jays have found themselves in this year.

Richards tends to fly under the radar, often needing to remind fans how rock-solid he has been in a Toronto uniform. Arriving from Milwaukee in the summer of 2021, he looked great during that introduction to Toronto. His 2022 was more forgettable and 2023 was marred by a mid-season neck strain. Simply put, when healthy, Richards can be a really important piece for this relief corps. In 2024, he is pitching to a 2.92 ERA with a 24.3% strikeout rate and 11.1% walk rate. In six appearances since the Chicago outing, he has tossed a combined 9.2 innings of two-run ball, making two "starts" and five total appearances.

On that fateful day in the Windy City, Richards not only soaked up innings, but he also befuddled White Sox hitters in a game Toronto would eventually win. Two appearances later, he was superb against Baltimore as an opener by throwing two scoreless innings and striking out four Orioles batters. Naturally, the rest of the pitching staff couldn't suppress a powerful Baltimore lineup, but Richards more than fulfilled his end of the bargain. His superb work against a robust Cleveland lineup also cannot be forgotten to the dustbin of history.

Richards is one of the bright spots in a bullpen that is sporting a 4.69 ERA this year, better than only three other clubs. Erik Swanson has not been close to the same pitcher from last season, Jordan Romano bookended IL stints with poor pitching in between, and Chad Green spent time on the IL. Yimi Garcia has been the exception to those individuals, but even he is struggling to stay healthy. to the injured list in the latest blow to the relief corps. In the span of one season, the Jays bullpen has fallen from the top of the heap to the bottom of the barrel.

It will be fascinating to see how the Blue Jays handle this role going forward. If Richards keeps pitching well, then John Schneider should keep trusting him to get big outs. Bowden Francis has looked good since his turbulent beginning to the 2024 season (12 runs in 8.1 innings). Recently, Francis allowed 4 runs to the Orioles but followed that up with scoreless outings in each of his next two.

Yariel Rodriguez's future will be fascinating because he has been fighting back from injury and is not projected to be able to handle a full starter's workload. How long will he be pressed into starter's duty if that is the path they choose to take? However, it all shakes out, Richards has more than distinguished himself as someone who offers a ton of versatility on a pitching staff that has been in dire need of his production.