We have another pitcher-catcher update.
Last week we talked about how a newcomer to the Toronto Blue Jays, catcher Russell Martin, planned to get a grip on R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball during spring training. Now we hear that, per MassLive’s Jason Mastrodonato, “Boston Red Sox expect catcher Christian Vazquez to handle the knuckleball, and everything else.”
“The first game I threw to Christian, he was on the left-field line before I was out there because he was so excited about catching it,” [Steven] Wright said Saturday. “He did a great job. I love throwing to Christian because I don’t like to shaStke off and for me he calls the slow ones, he calls hard ones, he calls fastballs, he does stuff that I can tell, I’m standing on the mound and he’s thinking, ‘What would I not look for right now?’ I’m throwing fastballs inside that I’ve never done.
“The fact that he’s able to think out of the box—because catching a knuckleball and calling a game for a knuckleball is completely different than any other person—but the fact that he’s sitting there thinking, it gives me more confidence that all I have to do is concentrate on executing the pitch….
“He’s advanced beyond his years,” Wright said.
As for Wright, he’s “learning a lot from Tim Wakefield as he prepares to be the Red Sox’s long-man and a reserve starter, depending how durable the Red Sox’s starting five will be in 2015.” Wright, Mastrodanato says, “has joined that elite club of major league knuckleballers who deserve to be there.”
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How about an anecdotes-of-the-game bonus? Marty Noble’s review at MLB.com a few years back of the documentary “Knuckleball!” (you can watch it via Netflix or Amazon) is mostly thumbs-up, but he says he “would have appreciated a few more game anecdotes to broaden the focus.”
A favorite: Casey Stengel pulled Mickey Mantle from a game in August 1960 because Mantle, thinking a force play at second base had ended the inning, didn’t run to first base on a double-play ground ball. The following night, Mantle, embarrassed by his faux pas, hit a foul pop against Hoyt Wilhelm that Orioles catcher Gus Triandos dropped because he was using the oversized mitt designed to reduce the number of passed balls and wild pitches associated with the knuckleball. Mantle hit the next pitch for an eighth-inning, two-run game-winner.
Another: Dave Racaniello, the Mets’ bullpen catcher, was struck on the side of his head warming up Dickey early this season. Just how much can a ball move?
And the Hofstra University softball pitcher, Olivia Galati, aka Ms. Butterfly, would have bent the gender of the movie. Her underhand knuckleball is remarkable.
Then again, “Knuckleball” covers the 2011 season. It was on target for Wakefield and his quest for his 200th career victory, but it also was one year too early to capture Galati’s excellence, all that Dickey has accomplished this summer and how he is a strong candidate to win the National League Cy Young Award.