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'I was one of those kids': Twins’ Woods Richardson hopes to inspire more Black pitchers

CLEVELAND – There was some extra excitement for Simeon Woods Richardson before his start Friday night in Cleveland. For the first time he can remember in his professional career, since he was drafted in 2018, he faced another Black starting pitcher.

Woods Richardson and Cleveland's Triston McKenzie are two of only nine active Black starting pitchers in the major leagues, which includes one on the injured list.

"You don't really see that many Black baseball players in general, let alone two starting pitchers," said the 23-year-old Woods Richardson, who has posted a 2.97 ERA through six starts this season.

Woods Richardson and McKenzie, who met through mutual friends, greeted each other before Friday's game as they passed each other in the Progressive Field bullpens, wishing each other good luck.

Both pitchers were inspired as kids when they watched Black starting pitchers on TV, particularly CC Sabathia.

"Even though he's lefthanded, wanting to be a Black pitcher because of guys like that," McKenzie said. "You never want to be anything else. You see relievers, but I think starters, they're the best. They have so much more control of the game."

African American players represented only 5.7% of the Opening Day rosters, the lowest figure in the majors since 1955, according to USA Today. Woods Richardson believes finances are a major factor with more Black athletes choosing to play football or basketball.

"Baseball is very expensive," Woods Richardson said. "A glove is $300. A bat is $400. Travel ball is probably $1,500 a year. Some families don't have that. I was fortunate to even deal with it. So yeah, we go for the cheaper options. We're blessed enough to be athletes, so we find different avenues. I believe if more Black players got into the game, you would see a lot of excitement, a lot of speed, a lot of talent, a lot of IQ."

After watching and learning about Black starting pitchers in the history of the sport — Dontrelle Willis was a broadcaster for Friday's game — Woods Richardson hopes he can inspire more Black pitchers.

"I was one of those kids," he said. "I saw CC, and I saw those other guys who were up there. I was like, 'OK, I can probably do that myself.' Just giving those guys motivation. At the end of the day, there's nine of us. I wear it with pride. I wear it with honor."

Twins reliever Jay Jackson was designated for assignment Sunday after he yielded a 6.85 ERA in 17 appearances.

Jackson, 36, allowed at least one run in 10 of his last 14 outings, and he's experienced a 1.5 mph dip in fastball velocity compared with last season.

The Twins, who promoted Caleb Boushley from Class AAA, have a week to put Jackson on waivers or trade him. Jackson, who signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract in February, is out of minor league options, so he must clear waivers before he can be sent to Class AAA.

"I hope to keep him with us and he can remain an option for us going forward," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said of Jackson. "If he's in the big leagues with another team, that's really good for him, and we'll be happy for him if that's the case. If he can find a way to keep throwing to get his velocity back up to where it was last year, I think he has a chance to be really successful."

* The Saints gave up a season-high 16 hits as they closed a six-game series with an 11-2 loss to Omaha at CHS Field on Sunday. St. Paul won two games in the series against the International League West-leading Storm Chasers.