There's a new longest last name in AL/NL history

October 2nd, 2022

DETROIT -- admits that he had thought about the absurdity of what his full last name would look like on the back of a Major League team’s jersey. It’s 16 characters long, pushing him decisively past the previous labyrinthine-last-name leader, former big league catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, for what’s believed to be the longest name on the back of a jersey in big league history.

“I could already envision it,” Woods Richardson said. “I already know it's going to go from love handle to love handle.”

He no longer needs to imagine it, because such a jersey now exists and hangs from a locker in the visiting clubhouse at Comerica Park, with his beautifully arching last name enveloping a jersey number 78. It's about to hit the big stage, too, as Woods Richardson, the organization’s No. 6 prospect, will make his Major League debut as the Twins' starting pitcher in Sunday's series finale against the Tigers, as announced Saturday by manager Rocco Baldelli.

“You balance out the kind of year that he has and you balance out kind of the upside and what you think a guy might be able to get out of it, where they’re at in their career,” Baldelli said. “There are guys that you want to get out there. You want to see them. You want to get them in a spot where if they’re making a start for you the following spring or the following year early in the year, that they’ve done it before.”

Woods Richardson was one of two prospects the Twins acquired at last year’s Trade Deadline, along with Austin Martin, in the deal that sent José Berríos to the Blue Jays. At this point, it appears safe to call him the headliner of the trade.

Though Woods Richardson no longer ranks among MLB’s Top 100 prospects (he was ranked No. 68 at the time of the trade), he has rebounded from an interrupted ‘21 season with an outstanding ‘22 during which he has posted a 2.77 ERA in 23 appearances (including 22 starts) across Double-A Wichita and Triple-A St. Paul, with 115 strikeouts in 107 1/3 innings. He has allowed no more than five hits in any of his seven starts since his promotion to Triple-A.

Woods Richardson had a 5.91 ERA last season at the Double-A level in the Toronto and Minnesota organizations, but the Twins were expecting a big improvement this year due to the right-hander’s youth -- he just turned 22 on Tuesday, when he was first told he’d be joining the Twins on this road trip -- and also because his ‘21 season was interrupted for a nearly two-month hiatus when he was named to Team USA for the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Armed with a much-improved slider, more consistent mechanics and the ability to mostly stay in a steady rhythm this year save a month-and-a-half-long absence due to COVID-19, Woods Richardson has looked to be reaching his sky-high potential – and the Twins are ready to see it at the Major League level, with the hope that Woods Richardson will take his big league cameo as a learning experience entering the offseason.

"I think it's a tremendous help,” Woods Richardson said. “Just seeing the type of caliber of hitters in the box, reading their swings, reading my swings, it upgrades your game. You will do better, you will feel better, you will think better. Everything is for a pitch-to-pitch purpose. I think that's what I'm most excited to see."

When Woods Richardson debuts, he’ll be the youngest pitcher to appear in the Majors this year, narrowly edging out teammate Ronny Henriquez (the organization’s No. 22 prospect). The Twins aren’t worried one bit.

“If they’re close to being able to help you, if they’re fully ready to be able to help you and you look at all of that -- sometimes, just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can't come up here and compete and doesn’t mean you’re not ready for these opportunities,” Baldelli said. “We think these guys are, obviously.”