Knuckleballers R.A. Dickey and Steven Wright Prepare for New Season

RA Dickey wearing Braves capR.A. Dickey isn’t worried that his performance during an early March spring-practice game was “not sharp” (according to the Atlanta-Constitution’s David O’Brien). He feels good that despite feeling bad he got in a decent day’s work.

“As far as my knuckleball is concerned, really the only hard-hit ball on that pitch came on, Dee Gordon kind of ran into one right down the line….

“I couldn’t have felt probably any worse than I did today,” Dickey said. “Just overall, body was feeling crappy. But it was great that I got three ups and three downs [innings] and got my work in. You’ve got to be able to manage games without feeling great, that’s part of it….

“I bet I threw 10 to 12 fastballs [in three innings]. I may not throw that in a whole game [during the regular season]….. So it was a good day overall, in that I got to get my work in, I didn’t feel worse for the wear afterwards, but didn’t feel good during the outing.”

Dickey has already shown his befuddling pitch at its best this spring, and said that what he’s got to be ready to do is repeat it. “If it’s good, it’s good. It doesn’t matter when in the spring. Good ones are good ones. It’s just a matter of repeating that for 100 pitches. That’s the real goal for me in the spring is to build up my arm strength, get my endurance up and be able to repeat that mechanic for 100 pitches.”

One thing going well in the spring training is catching, with Wright acknowledging the virtues of fellow Atlanta Brave Kurt Suzuki. According to Mark Bowman’s report for MLB.com:

“The thing that was most encouraging today was I had a really good [catcher],” Dickey said. “Kurt handled it very, very well. He made a great adjustment from the bullpen, where he was kind of struggling with it a little bit, to the game. He’s just a pro, so he wants to be as great as he can. I try to help him as much as I can, but it’s a hard thing to catch that thing.”

Though Suzuki had never previously caught a knuckleballer during a game, he certainly didn’t show any inexperience as he skillfully handled the dancing and darting pitch….

“You know you’re going to mess up every once in a while, but we’ll see,” Suzuki said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Another MLB knuckleballer, Steve Wright of the Boston Red Sox, was recently interviewed by MassLive’s Christopher Smith about the pitch and about Wright’s shoulder, injury of which knocked him out of the last weeks of the 2016 season.

Wright RedHe is optimistic that he can repeat last year’s performance.

“I don’t see why I couldn’t…. I feel like if you’ve done it once, you can do it again. It’s one of those things. I know what [Wakefield’s] numbers are and he was pretty consistent throughout the 19 years or so that he played. I think that’s the only thing you can ask for is consistency. I think every time he took the ball they knew what they were going to get out of him. And that’s what I want to do….

“For me, obviously I always try to be better than I was last year. So it’s just one of those things that I can’t think about the outcome. I’ve just got to think about the process. And the process is right now just trying to get my shoulder and my body back into pitching shape.”

Wright gets a strong vote of confidence from fellow MLB knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who lauds his colleague for apparently seamless versatility. “But the thing that’s so difficult to do that [Wright] is able to do as well as most knuckleballers that have had success is he’s able to throw a fastball, then go right back to the knuckleball.”

MassLive has a video at YouTube of Wright demonstrating his knuckleball grip. And here’s Dickey in a Global News video talking about the grip.

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