Knuckleballer Spring Training Update: Wright, Dickey, Gamboa

Is it spring training or some kind of All-Star thing? According to Rob Bradford, “Steven Wright looks the same as when he marched on to an All-Star appearance last season.” On Saturday the he pitched “three hitless innings against the twins” and “worked up to 41 pitches before going back down to the bullpen for another 14.”

If all keeps going down this road, Wright figures to be in line to starter Game 4 of the regular season, in Detroit.

“It’s really encouraging to see him throw as many strikes as he did,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “He came back in some counts. He threw a 3-2 knuckleball in one scenario. Quietly he continues to build up the pitch count and the innings.”

Red Sox knuckleballer Wright has been reWright Red Soxcovering from a shoulder injury that he suffered last season. Jackson Bruce of Fansided sums up the situation thus:

After making the All Star Game last year, Steven Wright was a forgotten man on the Boston Red Sox. The way he is pitching in Spring Training is changing that….

This spring, Wright has pitched in two games, racking up five scoreless innings and striking out one. While it is a small sample size, it is a promising step in his road to recovery. He is on a five-day schedule and will be looking to take the fourth start for the Red Sox once the season starts. There is reason to believe his spring success will carry over into the season….

If Wright stays healthy and at top form, he could consistently eat innings and be a valuable asset in a big league starting rotation. He has to prove himself this year to show last season was not a fluke.

Fine, except that everybody has to continue proving himself until the day the gold watch is handed out. And how can stellar knuckleball pitching throughout a season, or most of it, possibly be construed as a “fluke”?

whale flukeA “fluke” is either a kind of fish, the triangular blade at the end of an anchor arm, a whale tail part, or “a stroke of good luck” or “chance occurrence; an accident” (thanks, American Heritage Dictionary). “Good luck” is a way of referring to a chance occurrence that is beneficial. But Wright earned his ascendency; and, regardless of future performance, it is already evident that he didn’t just stumble upon his effective knuckleball pitching last season. We don’t have to wait to see how this season or the next pans out to know that what Wright accomplished in 2016 was a result of disciplined effort, not chance.

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Although not yet as in-the-groove as his fellow knuckleball pitcher, R.A. Dickey, now with the Atlanta Braves, is “not worried about string of rough starts,” reports David O’Brien for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The knuckleballer still feels that he is getting in gear.

R.A. Dickey has thrown a great many knuckleballs and other pitches in too many official games to put much stock in the box scores of spring training games that don’t count. Even if the pitching line next to his name has mostly crooked numbers….

“I showed some slower [knuckleballs] in the first,” Dickey said. “Those last two innings I was throwing a lot of heaters, brought in a curveball that I hadn’t thrown all spring. So I got a lot accomplished today. It was a good day for me. Got to handle the bat a little bit, felt great. I mean, one more [spring start] and I’m going to be ready to rock.”…

“Spring is so much about trusting the process…. It’s all process over results. It’s all conditioning, getting your big muscles ready to go, making sure mentally you’re OK with getting up and down [between innings], getting to throw every fifth day and getting to throw bullpens in between starts, and making sure all those components are there, and you just trust the process of it all.”

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Eddie Gamboa is adding a cutter to his pitching mix, “not just using the fastball and knuckleball,” the Texas Ranger told the Star-Telegram. “I introduced my cutter a lot more and it got me out of a couple of jams and into some good counts…. Hopefully [Sunday] was a way for them to see the pros and cons of having a knuckleballer and having me part of the big league club.”

Reporter Stefan Stevenson adds: “He was locating his knuckleball, too, which helped get hitters in swing mode.”

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