With knuckleballer Steven Wright sidelined for the moment because still recovering from an episode of post-surgical knee trouble, we have been hoping that some plucky third baseman would try a knuckleball to liven things up a little.
And voilà! Plucky Cincinnati Reds third baseman Alex Blandino—with the Reds organization since 2014 but only this year pressed into service in the major leagues—has displayed what MLB.com’s Matt Monagan describes as a “mesmerizing 67-mph knuckleball in his mound debut.” Monagan adds that “during the Indians’ 19-4 win over the Reds on Wednesday night [July 11], the 25-year-old got the chance to pitch and…he should be a pitcher.”
Blandino “struck out two, allowed one hit and gave up zero runs in his one inning of work—touching close to 90 mph with his fastball.”
Speaking of “zero,” at least one or two observers thought they detected a spin of absolute zero on his knuckleball.
Here’s an animated GIF of the pitch. The SportsQuotient has additional video, and says of Blandino: “Even though they lost 19-4, the Reds’ night wasn’t a total waste. They discovered a new addition to their bullpen.”
Fox Sports Ohio tweet: “Is that Tim Wakefield on the mound? No, it’s Alex Blandino and his wicked knuckleball!”
Dave Clark, Cincinnati Enquirer: “Blandino was as sharp as it gets for a position player pitching near the end of a blowout.” Clark quotes Reds manager Jim Riggleman:
“I talked to him about [pitching] a little bit probably a month ago. He was saying he could do it. It just has never come up…. Alex I guess pitched some in college, I don’t know. But he looked pretty good.”
Sportscaster Tom Brennaman called Blandino “the best pitcher the Reds have had tonight. The only one that wasn’t scored on.”
One inning is not a very large sample, but it’s something. And may we suggest that if Alex Blandino wants to consider being a regular pitcher, he should especially consider being a regular knuckleball pitcher? If so, he will have opportunities to learn from the best. As R.A. Dickey told MLB.com a couple of years ago, “We all share our notes. There’s no real ‘I don’t want to share my secrets’ kind of thing among the [knuckleball] fraternity. In fact, it’s the opposite…. You want people to learn the pitch well so they can keep the tradition alive.”