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How Richard helped Lucchesi, Lauer reach MLB

Veteran invited prospects to train with him at home during offseason
MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- Until December, Clayton Richard had yet to meet two-fifths of the Padres' current starting rotation.

Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer were only 18 months removed from being selected in the 2016 Draft. No other pitcher from that class was close to a big league breakthrough. But the Padres envisioned big things for both -- and quickly.

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SAN DIEGO -- Until December, Clayton Richard had yet to meet two-fifths of the Padres' current starting rotation.

Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer were only 18 months removed from being selected in the 2016 Draft. No other pitcher from that class was close to a big league breakthrough. But the Padres envisioned big things for both -- and quickly.

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So they told Lauer and Lucchesi to pack their bags for Lafayette, Ind., to spend a week with the Padres' resident veteran left-hander.

"Clayton has done a ton for this organization, but being home during the offseason is a big deal for him," Padres manager Andy Green said. "He brought it up: 'Hey, fly them out here, they can work with me.' ... We felt very strongly about those two spending time with him, because we thought they could be in the rotation really quickly. I wouldn't have guessed April."

And yet here they are. Lucchesi has been one of baseball's best rookies, having posted a 2.78 ERA and 35 strikeouts in six starts. Lauer, meanwhile, endured a rough debut on Tuesday in Colorado and will make his second start Monday night in San Francisco.

Video: NYM@SD: Lucchesi strikes out 6, allows just 4 hits

They arrived in Lafayette on a Sunday night, as though readying for a week-long baseball camp -- but not quite so festive.

"I just wanted to provide an example of what my offseason's like and what I think work preparing for a season looks like," Richard said.

Richard's workouts -- since his days as backup quarterback at Michigan -- are the stuff of legend.

"He works out like a football player -- because he was a football player," Lauer said. "It's insane. ... That was a real eye-opener for me."

Video: SD@COL: Lauer gets Dahl looking for first career K

"It was really just an example of what it's going to take to have a promising career," Lucchesi said. "Obviously, we want this to be where we are for a long time. I'm going to push myself."

Lauer and Lucchesi stayed at a nearby hotel. They rented a truck, and met Richard at his house at dawn each morning.

From there, the three drove to Richard's nearby gym. They rotated workouts, from throwing to high-intensity lifting to pilates to time in the pool.

Afterward, Richard took them to dinner around his town. He ordered, ever-conscious of his diet.

"I had never seen a crustless pizza," Lauer quipped.

Until Spring Training, Richard still hadn't seen Lauer and Lucchesi pitch. He became Lucchesi's throwing partner, and the three sat in on almost every bullpen session.

"The makeup was there, the stuff was there, they're very impressive individuals," Richard said. "I saw that [a callup] could be a realization sooner rather than later."

Richard is in the 10th season of an up-and-down big league career. He's never been an ace. He's never been an All-Star. But he's stuck in the Majors for 10 years, despite serious shoulder issues and a reinvention of his mechanics five years ago.

Video: NYM@SD: Richard fans Conforto to end top of the 6th

Last September, Richard signed to a two-year extension. His role as mentor played no small part. In Lauer and Lucchesi, the Padres see big-time potential, and they feel Richard's presence will help them realize it.

"It's obviously a great example for them," Green said. "The reality is that probably both of them have higher ceilings than Clayton. ... Clayton reached close to his ceiling because of his work ethic. All you ever want to do is have it said of you at the end of your career that you got everything out of yourself that you possibly could. That's one of the greatest compliments. That's true of Clayton."

If it's true of Lauer and Lucchesi, the Padres may have laid the groundwork for their future starting rotation.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Eric Lauer, Joey Lucchesi, Clayton Richard