Toronto Blue Jay Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is optimistic about the upcoming baseball season, having performed to his own satisfaction in a recent spring-training game against the Detroit Tigers. According to the National Post:
“I couldn’t be more pleased with today’s outing,” said Dickey. “You try not to look at the results, really, in a scenario like that. I wanted to get to 100 pitches and I was able to do that. I was able to maintain my velocity through pitch 100 and felt great. Could have gone right back out there. So, at this point in the spring, I am optimistic. I got a lot of swings and misses against a team that has a good approach against the [knuckleball].
“What you’ve seen this spring that I feel I might have lacked in past springs is greater command. I was 0-2, 1-2, 2-2 with everybody except for about two hitters and that is always a good sign. I think I might have two walks this spring in about 20 innings.”
* * *
Eri Yoshida is a young independent-league pitcher in Japan—she went pro at age 16—who has used the knuckleball with success against men. But Yoshida, now 24, has apparently reduced her reliance on the pitch in tryouts for the national women’s team.
Kazuya Hirasawa reports for The Japan News (“Yoshida puts knuckler aside in pitch for national team”):
Using the great equalizer that the knuckleball can be, Eri Yoshida has been able to mix it up with the men on the baseball field. Now the 24-year-old independent league hurler is making a pitch to take on her peers using a straightforward approach.
Yoshida, who plays for the Ishikawa Million Stars of the men’s independent BC League, is bidding to make the women’s national team that will aim for a fifth straight title at the Women’s Baseball World Cup in September in Busan, South Korea.
Yoshida was among the 24 players who passed a February tryout and remain candidates for selection. And she did it without relying on her trademark knuckleball—instead, she demonstrated her overall abilities as a pitcher.
Hirasawa notes that Yoshida “demonstrated a commanding mound presence in skills other than pitching—a pickoff move, covering bases, and communication with the infielders—which was a welcome surprise for the coaches.”
The question is why demonstrating such abilities need be inconsistent with relying on a knuckleball as one’s primary pitch. Or why the same pitch that has served Yoshida as a “great equalizer” when she is pitching against men would not also serve her well or better against women. In the February tryouts, she threw the pitch only twice. Perhaps now that she has demonstrated her prowess with conventional moves, she’ll bring on the knuckleball?
Although Yoshida has made the first cut and earned kudos from coaches, she is not yet on the team. Final selections will be made in April.