Blue Jays release Richard; Luciano activated

September 12th, 2019

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays released veteran left-hander prior to Thursday’s game against the Red Sox in Toronto, which cleared room on the 40-man roster to activate from the 60-day injured list.

Richard, who turned 36 on Thursday, was acquired by the Blue Jays in the offseason to act as rotation depth as the club continues to develop its pitching prospects. But he was placed on the injured list with a left lat strain in mid-July after posting a 5.96 ERA over 10 starts. Richard was activated Sept. 2, but he had not pitched.

“He was great at the beginning, helping with everybody here,” said manager Charlie Montoyo. “He’s a great, great guy. I love Clayton Richard.”

In returning to the active roster, the 19-year-old Luciano now has enough time to fulfill Rule 5 Draft requirements of being active for a minimum of 90 days in a season. By fulfilling that, Luciano would become a full member of the Blue Jays’ organization in 2020 and beyond with no Rule 5 strings attached.

The Blue Jays made Luciano a surprise pick in the Rule 5 Draft this past offseason in December, when he was just 18 years old and hadn’t pitched above rookie level. Luciano did enough in Spring Training to convince the Blue Jays to move forward with the experiment, though. He stuck around on the Major League roster until mid-June, when he hit the injured list with a right elbow sprain.

Luciano’s outings earlier in the season were typically limited to low-leverage situations, ideally with a large lead or deficit, which will likely be how the Blue Jays handle him through the final few weeks of the season. Over his 27 2/3 innings, Luciano posted a 6.51 ERA with 23 walks and 22 strikeouts.

“Whenever we can find spots for him,” Montoyo said, adding that Luciano will not be extended for multi-inning appearances. “We’ve got more people in the bullpen now than when he was active. He pitched a lot more than we probably wanted to at one time. But it’s just about finding the spots where he can succeed.”

The numbers don’t carry much weight for Luciano, of course, given his age. He’s shown some encouraging building blocks for the Blue Jays to work with over the coming years. According to Statcast, Luciano’s four-seam fastball has averaged 94.1 mph in the Major Leagues, and the Blue Jays are optimistic that his breaking ball can be an above-average pitch at this level. Luciano also throws a changeup, which will be key to his development as a starter down the road.

Assuming Luciano stays healthy and he remains with the organization, an assignment to Double-A New Hampshire could be a sensible starting point for his age-20 season.

On Wednesday, Luciano was selected by Tigres del Licey in the fourth round of the Dominican Winter League Draft, which gives Luciano and the Blue Jays another potential avenue to continue his development and build on his 2019 workload, if they choose.