After mostly recovering from a minor injury, Red Sox knuckleball pitcher Steven Wright was back in action last Friday against the Royals and “Feel[ing] Good One Day After Return to Mound,” reports John Tomase. It took a while for the pitcher to warm up, though.
Wright’s outing didn’t go as planned. He allowed five runs in the first inning before finding his groove and shutting out the Royals on three hits over his final five innings. At that point, the damage had been done.
“The issue with the first inning was that I felt so good, and it was the first time I had felt good in three weeks, first time I threw with no pain,” Wright said. “Bullpens I threw with pain, but just a matter of trying to get through it. So the first time throwing with no pain, plus first time facing live hitters in three weeks—first a lot of things in three weeks—I just got a little antsy, little too much adrenaline, overthrowing a little bit.
A Wright knuckleball has made PitcherList.com’s pitcher list (“The Nastiest Pitching GIFs from This Weekend’s Games”).
We haven’t featured too many crazy good knucklers from Wright this season, but this one should make up for it. Despite being called a ball, its unreal movement at the last moment is simply crazy.
Brian Mcwilliams at thescore.com says his catcher was confounded on Wright’s first day back.
[Wright] didn’t get off to the greatest start…. His knuckleball, however, was still doing incredible things, absolutely fooling his battery mate, Sandy Leon, with a ridiculous amount of movement.
It helps when you get help, is the theme of csnne.com’s Sean McAdam, and that’s why, McAdam believes, Wright has been able to be more consistent early on in his knuckleball career than Tim Wakefield was able to be at the beginning of his 17 years with the Sox.
One of Wakefield’s first pitching coaches in Boston, Joe Kerrigan, regarded knuckleballers as little more than freakish performers.
When Wakefield encountered mechanical issues, Kerrigan could offer little assistance. The pitch was unpredictable, and in Kerrigan’s mind, so was the pitcher. The same rules that helped Kerrigan dissect and analyze a conventional pitcher’s issues wouldn’t work with Wakefield.
That frustrated both coach and pitcher, as Wakefield was left to fend for himself….
Wright has no such issues. He can often tell—and if he doesn’t, pitching coach Carl illis can help—when his delivery has gone askew. Better yet, he knows what he needs to do immediately to correct it….
Ironically, it was Wakefield himself — who got so little help for periods of his own career — who offered Wright a key checkpoint last season.
“He had me move my hands back,” recalled Wright. “What it does is, it helps me lock my shoulders in a place so I don’t get rotational. That’s one of the biggest things because if I started feeling that I’m getting rotational, then there’s something off.”
CallThePen.com has more about Wakefield’s early days as a knuckleball pitcher—specifically, the day he went up against seasoned knuckleballer Tom Candiotti. Candiotti pitched well; “Wakefield was just better.”