Brian Wilson Unleashes Neat Knuckler as First Pitch; Blue Jays Sign Knuckleballer Frank Viola III

It’s big news when a mainstream pitcher chucks a knuck, judging by the sit-up-straight reaction to Los Angeles Dodger Brian Wilson’s wobbler in the Dodgers’ March 4 game with the Seattle Mariners.

And it was “actually pretty good,” judges HardballTalk’s D.J. Short.

We probably should have seen this coming, as Josh Tucker of Dodgers Insider notes that Wilson was spotted experimenting with the knuckler in a pre-game workout during the NLCS last year. Chances are he was just messing around with the pitch today, but if there’s anybody who would try to incorporate a knuckleball into his arsenal, it’s probably Wilson.

EyeOnBaseball’s Dayn Perry declares that Wilson unfurled the pitch “like a righteous battle flag.”

Brian WilsonInterestingly, the announcer we hear in MLB.com’s video calls it simply a “breaking ball.” It’s the first pitch of the game, and a strike. Brad Miller didn’t swing.

“During an off-season probably spent trying to put dreadlocks in his beard…Brian Wilson apparently mastered the difficult yet suggestive art of the knuckleball,” suggests Jon Taylor of TheStrikeZone. Wilson’s “first-pitch knuckler would’ve made Tim Wakefield proud.”

Over at Yahoo! Sports, Mike Oz says that Wilson is “one of baseball’s funkiest pitchers, so uncorking baseball’s funkiest pitch seems fitting.” (Hey! We resemble that….)

Wilson was the starting pitcher in Tuesday’s game for the Los Angeles Dodgers. That’s something he’s never done in his entire regular season career, but it’s spring training, so what the heck?

Maybe this was just an attempt by Wilson to get on SportsCenter or do something weird because he himself was in a weird situation as a starter. But maybe not. Maybe he’s going to start throwing the occasional knuckler.

Hmm. So what next? Will Wilson, perhaps, throw another?

Meanwhile, the Toronto Blue Jays have signed another knuckleballer to a minor league contract: Frank Viola III, who has been tutored in the pitch by R.A. Dickey. Here’s what Viola said in March of 2012, as quoted in a report on how he was “knuckling down to revive career”:

“He [Dickey] was really impressed, and it’s really cool to have a guy like him be even slightly impressed,” said Viola, son of the former Cy Young Award winner and Mets Minor League coach. “I really do feel like I’m close. At the rate I’m going, I really feel like in the next year or so it’s going to be something special.”

Viola had picked up the pitch after blowing out his elbow, after which came a knee injury. A former teammate of his father’s suggested he give the knuckleball a try.

“And it was terrible,” Viola said. “I threw one out of 100 that actually knuckled. Then within two months or a month and a half, I started throwing it where I could get like two out of 10. I was like, ‘Wow, this is kind of cool.’…

“A lot of times, teams probably write you off as a knuckleballer because they’re not really looking for that. But if you can get within an organization throwing a knuckleball, and can be successful, then you’ve got a chance.” “

Well, the Blue Jays is an organization hospitable to the knuckleball, and Dickey is there too.

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