The Best-laid Plans of Mice and Knuckleballer Fans

Dickey pitching hard It was a good idea, knuckleballer versus knuckleballer. And it looked like it would happen on Saturday, April 9 thanks to a rain delay that had caused some shuffling of game schedules. Unfortunately, the projected pitting of Blue Jay R.A. Dickey against Red Sox Steven Wright itself got rain-delayed out of existence!

It seems that the Fates, darn them, are just as unpredictable as the knuckleball itself. Dan Toman of TheScore.com records the unhappy fact:

Thursday’s rainout in Cleveland washed away more than just the Indians’ series finale with the Boston Red Sox. It also spoiled a knuckleball duel 16 years in the making.

Following their second postponement in four days, the Red Sox announced Steven Wright will no longer start Saturday opposite Blue Jays right-hander R.A. Dickey, who is now scheduled to face Boston’s Rick Porcello. Wright will now pitch Sunday’s series finale against Marco Estrada.

Dickey and Wright, currently the majors’ only knuckleballers, were set to square off in the first such matchup since Tim Wakefield and Steve Sparks opposed each other Sept. 15, 2000.

Dickey, still going strong at 41, has nothing but good words for Wright, whom he hopes well keep the knuckleball in the air in the MLB after R.A. eventually retires. “He has a really good [knuckleball] and obviously if he has made a big-league roster, the pitch speaks for itself, it’s trustworthy. I’m happy for him and I’m hoping that he does really well against everyone but us.”

A frustrating twist for the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday was that Dickey’s knuckleball was “the best” that Jays manager John Gibbons had seen him deliver—yet was not enough to hold off the Red Sox. That’s because, in the words of CBC Sports writer Neil Davidson, “In the wacky world of a knuckleball pitcher, bad things can happen even when you are very good.”

That was the case for Toronto’s R.A. Dickey on Saturday afternoon. His pitch was at its mercurial best—hard to control but not always too hard to hit in an 8-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox.

“Believe it or not, that may be the best knuckleball I’ve ever seen him have,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons. “It was everywhere.”

Still the Red Sox managed to find it when it counted as the Blue Jays wasted a two-homer, four-RBI performance by Jose Bautista to lose their fourth straight.

“Dickey’s knuckleball, that’s probably the best I’ve ever seen it, as violent as it was, and we were able to put some innings together against him,” said Boston manager John Farrell.

Dickey says that despite the outcome, his knuckleball has gotten better much more quickly during this year’s spring training than has been the case in previous years.

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Dan JohnsonKnuckleballer Dan Johnson has left the Tampa Bay Rays to try his luck with the Bridgeport Bluefish

of the independent Atlantic League, where he will work as a pitcher and also play first base and DH.

“I am going to give it another try,” Johnson said via text message Sunday to the Tampa Bay Times. “I never really gave it a try with the Rays. I got hurt so early it was just going to put me further behind. By doing this, I can control the pitching side of it and still get at-bats…. Signing with [an independent league team] gave me the freedom to do both.”

Johnson, 36, had signed again with the Rays on March 5 of this year, hoping to convert from first baseman to knuckleball pitcher.

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