It’s looking good for knuckleball pitcher Steven Wright of the Boston Red Sox, who was knocked out of play last season by knee injury and surgery after participating in only a few games. Now he reports that after his first public pitching efforts of the year, he’s feeling cautiously optimistic—not yet up to par, but getting there. According to Alex Speier’s March 14 report for the Boston Globe:
For Wright, progress is measured by individual steps, and on Wednesday, the Red Sox knuckleballer took what he deemed a big one.
For the first time since his surgery, Wright threw to hitters, throwing approximately 30 pitches to a pair of minor leaguers. He worked two simulated innings, sitting in the dugout between them. That he was able to get through the exercise without discomfort represented a significant marker.
“Today was a big hurdle for me to get over,” said Wright. “I haven’t even thought about a timetable from the beginning. If you start thinking about the light at the end of the tunnel, all of a sudden, it might get dim.
“Talking to other guys who have gone through significant injuries, you’ve got to try to win the day. Today was a big win, being able to go out there and get through it.”
Wright, who mixed some fastballs and curveballs with his knuckleball, said, “Definitely, I’m not where I want to be [physically], but it’s getting better and better.”…
“Obviously it wasn’t where I want to be as far as the knuckleball, but the first time facing hitters, for me, it’s a huge hurdle…. I never even thought I’d be at this point, to be honest with you, this quick. So it’s definitely a good day.”
Wright was also quoted feeling good in a Boston Globe piece published a few days later:
“If I get one more live BP, get four or five innings, or even if it’s a [simulated] game or whatever the scenario is, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be ready for Opening Day or whatever that first turnaround is…. I’m not going to sit here and say for sure, because I just don’t know. But if I keep progressing the way I have been, there’s definitely a good chance that I’m going to be able to break with the team.”
Good luck, Steven!
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Some fans want to see R.A. Dickey on their team and make a case. (See also our post of last month, “Who Should Sign Knuckleball Pitcher R.A. Dickey?”) At the AthleticsNation.com site, Tim Eckert-Fong argues for adding him to the Oakland Athletics:
Now of course, the A’s could just go and find an Eric Surkamp or a Chris Smith should the need arise as the season wears on. They’re always available but they’re not fun. They’re no R.A. Dickey, whose best case could be interesting, and who could be the A’s 2018 version of Bartolo Colon. Some positives:
- He doesn’t have a UCL in his right arm so therefore he can’t tear his UCL in his pitching arm.
- Knuckleballers age outrageously well compared to their harder-throwing counterparts.
- Knuckleballers are awesome.
There’s not an innings eater on the market quite like R.A. Dickey. Last year he threw 190 innings, good for 19th-most in the league. No pitchers are injury-proof, but knuckleballers are about as close as you can get. It seems like they can pitch forever and Dickey’s most likely barrier to throwing a similar amount in 2018 is quality. If he can keep getting outs at a not-painful rate, he can eat a lot of innings.
Eckert-Fong expands on these points, and also says something about the case against. What he doesn’t mention, though, is that the Oakland Athletics are based in Oakland, California—a stumbling block not for the Athletics but perhaps for Dickey. R.A. has been saying lately that if he gets back in the game, he would prefer slinging his knuckleball for a team near his own home base in Tennessee, as he did last year as a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves.