In batting practice last Friday—his first time on the mound since late June—knuckleball pitcher Steven Wright did well enough to earn the happy enthusiasm of Red Sox manager Alex Cora. The Boston Globe reports that Wright
threw 35 pitches over two innings of live batting practice at Tropicana Field. Wright faced a pair of Gulf Coast League players who were driven up from the team facility in Fort Myers.
“Excellent, excellent,” manager Alex Cora said. “His stuff was good. Everyone was very impressed with how he threw the ball. We’ll see how he reacts and we’ll go from there.”
Cora said Wright could start a minor league rehabilitation assignment next week and join the team at some point in September.
Wright and the Sox say that if and when he returns to the roster, he will be pitching for briefer stretches than he had been earlier in the season. The idea is to prevent his healing knee, on which surgery was done last year, from suffering another relapse. Regarding Friday’s practice, Wright says he “tried to make it as game-like as possible. I felt good…. It was the best I’ve felt in a while.”
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We’ve noted that Wade Boggs had a knuckleball, which he unleashed a couple of times during games. Now Cut4’s Chris Landers is remembering Boggs’s pitching of August 19, 1997, an occasion that provided “living proof of the fact that you’re never too old to see your dreams come true.”
“You knew Wade Boggs could hit, but did you also know he had a nasty knuckleball?”
Landers provides video of Boggs in action that day, with an announcer telling us that the powerhouse batter practiced his knuckleball before every game. “Boggs is always out here before the game playing catch, working on his knuckleball. And probably looking forward to this opportunity, to finally get in the game and use it.”
His very first lob was a knuckleball; strike one. A few pitches got away from him. But Boggs was able to make his way through a scoreless inning before tipping his cap to the roaring crowd. He later said that the experience made him feel like “Phil Niekro and Charlie Hough all rolled into one.”
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The Maryland Baseball Network reported that Biondic had proven his mettle by the end of his senior year at the University of Maryland.
Biondic’s senior season highlighted a career of perseverance. After losing his starting role as a junior, Biondic reclaimed his position at first base this year. Not only did he play in 53 games—missing just one due to his Chicago Police Academy entrance exam—he transitioned into a two-way player. After picking up pitching in the off-season, Biondic turned into one of the more reliable arms out of the bullpen. He hit a career-high six homers and struck out more than one batter per inning on the mound….
Biondic earned All-Big Ten second team honors as a utility player this season, turning into a successful hitter and pitcher. He went from toying around with a knuckleball to using it to strike out the final batter of his career. Just a season ago, former Terrapin Jamal Wade—another first-year pitcher—was drafted by the Seattle Mariners. He made just seven errors in four years and produced at the plate in big times this season. He’s had a goal of joining the police force, so no matter how the draft plays out, Biondic will continue pursuing something he enjoys doing.
Maryland Baseball Network also reported that Biondic, whose pitching career “began by fooling around with a knuckleball,” went on to finish “his first and only season as a Maryland pitcher with the same exact pitch, striking out Indiana’s Sam Crail with the erratic motion in the bottom of the eighth.”
So now Biondic is being tested in the minor leagues. If the pitching doesn’t work out, he can become a police officer. If the pitching does work out, he can retire as an MLB knuckleballer at age 46 or 47 and then become a police officer.