It's fitting that on the night Garrett Richards recorded his first big-league hit, he came out for his postgame press conference ready to play offense.
Making what he effectively admitted was the first start of his 11-year career without an illicit grip aid, the Red Sox right-hander did not hold back his displeasure over MLB's looming crackdown on foreign substances and what it could mean for the game.
"I can't think of a worse time, to be honest with you," he said.
His voice dripping with disgust, Richards could barely comprehend what had just happened during a 10-8 victory over the Braves that saw him rocked for seven hits and six runs in four innings. He struck out three and uncharacteristically hit two while throwing zero curveballs, because he had no feel for one of his best pitches.
Richards threw 84 pitches -- 64 four-seam fastballs and 20 sliders. The spin rates on both were roughly 250 RPMs below his season averages of 2,593 and 2,885, respectively.
"I just didn't really feel convicted with any of my breaking balls tonight, so I pretty much threw all fastballs," Richards said. "I think tonight spoke for itself. I'm not going to get caught up in it all. But I'll definitely say it's starting to affect people in their careers. So we're going to follow the rules, but this is the game you're going to get."
The Red Sox and Braves combined for 26 hits, 18 runs, and three home runs. The game lasted four hours and 10 minutes.
Get used to it, Richards said.
"Be prepared for four-hour long games and some interesting things," Richards said. "I don't know. I'm just grateful that I got this far into my career before this point."
Richards was just getting started. He admitted that sunscreen has been a part of his gameday routine since he reached the big leagues in 2011, because he said rosin by itself -- which is legal -- is worthless.
"As soon as I get to the field every day, I put sunscreen on," he said. "Now I can't do that and on top of that, the only thing that's provided is the rosin bag on the back of the mound, which to be honest with you, is completely useless. It does nothing. It literally, it barely even dries up sweat. It might as well not even be there. I can't even think how many times over the entire course of my career that I've gone to the back of the rosin bag. Sometimes I've been on mounds that didn't even have rosin bags. By itself it doesn't do anything for anybody. I don't know anybody that just uses rosin."
Richards said he'd be willing to use a rosin bag "that actually worked," but in the next breath he badly missed the point of why baseball is making these changes in the first place. He claimed that pitchers simply want a better grip, when in fact MLB's announcement noted that pitchers have been overwhelming hitters with the aid of substances applied solely to increase spin rate.
"I don't think anybody's looking for anything over the top," Richards said. "I think we're just trying to find something that will allow us to throw more strikes and still to be able to compete, you know what I'm saying? Like, at the end of the day, don't we want both sides competing? If one side has to concede and the other side gets all the advantage, then what are we doing here? We're just watering down the purity of competing in the game."
Considering that the league batting average has dropped to a 50-year low, it's disingenuous to suggest the playing field was remotely level to start. Regardless, Richards questions why MLB would make these alterations in the middle of the season, and he wonders how enforcement -- which will include spot checks and 10-game suspensions for rule breakers -- will even be implemented.
"To be honest with you, I don't know if the people that are checking for whatever they're checking for are qualified to check for anything," he said. "We've played the game since we've been in the big leagues, for the guys that have been around, we're trying to do our best right now. We're trying to follow the rules, simply. So this is what you're going to get. I don't really know what else to say about it."
Richards noted that players can appeal suspensions, "but I've also been told don't bother, so whatever." He said he won't selfishly risk a suspension that costs his team a roster spot for 10 games. He agreed with Rays ace Tyler Glasnow, who faces potential Tommy John surgery, that the hastily implemented crackdown could lead to more injuries.
"I can't remember a game where I've gripped a baseball that hard," he said. "I definitely use a loose grip and tonight . . . I even hit two guys and I don't hit people. I don't hit people. With two strikes, too. Trying to go fastballs in and just missing up and in but not really knowing why. There's going to be a lot of adjustments made. I don't know what kind of product is gonna come out of it, but I don't know. We'll figure it out."
And that was Richards' final point. If these are the rules, he has no choice but not adjust.
"I mean, I'm going to figure out," he said. "I made it through four innings with pretty much all fastballs tonight, so I don't know. Maybe I'll have to develop another pitch, maybe I'll start learning a changeup or something. I don't know. But this is where we're at and this is what we're dealing with, so we've just got to make the best of it."