Yesterday, the Red Sox made headlines by sending closer Joel Hanrahan to the disabled list with a sore hamstring. In his stead, they have called Steven Wright up from Triple-A Pawtucket. In case you have missed the numerous reports about the 28-year old, Steven Wright is a knuckleballer. The absence of Hanrahan muddles the bullpen situation a little bit, but Wright will likely serve in a mop-up role or a long relief pitcher. There’s also a possibility, however, that Wright, a natural starter, may serve in the fifth spot in the rotation until John Lackey returns from injury.
Wright was drafted in the second round of the 2006 amateur draft by the Cleveland Indians. He put up some decent numbers in the lower levels of the minors as a top prospect, but his career began to stagnate in Double-A Akron. This eventually promoted Wright to take up the knuckleball, where his career finally began to take off in 2011. He worked his way back to Double-A throwing the flutterball then, and in Double-A full time last season, he was pretty dominant between the Indians’ and Red Sox systems. In 25 starts, he went 10-7 with a 2.54 ERA and over 7 strikeouts per nine innings. Despite a rough spring, his first camp with Boston, he has been similarly good in Pawtucket this year, posting a 2.70 ERA with 11 strikeouts and 7 walks in 10 innings.
The one factor that has plagued Wright throughout his minor league career has been his control. The knuckleball is admittedly a hard pitch to control but 7 walks in 10 innings is just too many, as is the 69 walks in 141.2 innings last season. However, that could work in his favor in an “effectively wild” approach should be improve his control at least a bit. Great control is not really necessary if one is making a short stint in the majors as a mop-up reliever.
Unless Alfredo Aceves profoundly struggles in tonight’s start against the Tribe, it seems likely that Wright will be restricted to the front end of the bullpen. Hopefully the Red Sox will make room for him to pitch against his former club in this series for his major league debut. The way they have been playing this year, that doesn’t seem like it will be a problem though.