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Bucs trade lefty Richard to Cubs

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates made good on their promise and intent when they came to a Minor League agreement on Dec. 3 with veteran lefty Clayton Richard: to work him back to the Major Leagues.

Richard is coming, but not to the Pirates, who on Friday honored the "upward mobility" clause in his contract by trading him to the Cubs for cash considerations.

The new clause was negotiated when Richard did not trigger the April 1 opt-out in his original deal and gave other teams the right to express an interest in acquiring him for an immediate spot on their Major League roster. The Bucs' only means, then, to retain the pitcher would have been to add him to their own active roster.

"It was a challenging decision," Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington said. "We really like Clayton a lot, and we feel he can and will help a Major League team. [When] he exercised the clause, the Cubs called, and we could have called him up but opted to stay with the club that we have."

Richard's career was derailed by mid-2013 surgery to correct thoracic outset syndrome. With Triple-A Indianapolis, he had a 4-2 record while averaging 6 1/3 innings for nine starts with an ERA of 2.09.

When asked most recently on June 26 about Richard, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he was "making progress."

"He needs to pitch," Hurdle said at the time. "He's so far removed [from pitching in the Majors] that he still feels really good about how he's coming along, building up the endurance. He's moving in the right direction."

That direction became west a large part because of left-hander Jeff Locke's most recent starts. Since allowing 15 hits and 11 runs in 10 1/3 innings at the turn into June -- when Hurdle emphasized that Locke was not pitching for his job -- he has surrendered five earned runs in 21 innings of four starts, three of them team wins.

"This was one of those decisions based on all the information available to us and that we feel good about," Huntington said.

Richard would have been part of the Pirates' starting depth that took a springtime hit when Brandon Cumpton was lost to Tommy John surgery. However, good options still remain with Indianapolis in Chris Volstad, Casey Sadler and Radhames Liz -- perhaps the hottest candidate.

Since being sent to Indianapolis after 11 relief appearances with the Pirates, Liz has resumed starting and has an 0.63 ERA in five games with 17 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings.

"We thank Clayton for his hard work," Huntington said, "and hope he'll go do well … maybe not when he plays against Pittsburgh."

The Cubs and Pirates have nine meetings remaining on the 2015 schedule, starting with an Aug. 3-5 series in PNC Park.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast.
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