Steven Wright has long been one of my favorite comedians. Most noted for his lethargic and deadpan delivery, Wright was born and raised in Massachusetts and is an ardent Red Sox fan.
The Boston Red Sox also have a namesake in a knuckleball pitcher named Steven Wright. This version is a 30 year-old pitching journeyman who just may be a hidden gem for the Red Sox.
"You can’t have everything. Where would you put it? – Steven Wright"
Wright made a brief appearance in 2013, winning two game,s and has resurfaced after a nice run at Pawtucket (5-5, 3.41) as a starter for the PawSox. Wright has performed credibly in his late season call-up, with one notable outing being five innings against Toronto, allowing no runs.
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Sometimes it takes a bit of patience and luck with masters or attempted masters of the knuckleball. Many reach the status after extended trial and error with the knuckleball and with a mediocre performance sample as a traditional pitcher.
Boston’s Tim Wakefield didn’t hit his stride until he was 28. R.A. Dickey was about the same age. Hoyt Wilhelm made it to the majors at 29. Phil Niekro, the last 20-20 pitcher (wins and losses in the same season), started his great run at 28. Massachusetts native Wilbur Wood converted over to the K-Ball and had a great run – and his own “20-20” season.
Has Wright finally discovered the formula – the one that Charlie Zink missed? Is Wright another late in baseball life arrival? If so, the Red Sox may have an excellent virtuoso of versatility as a spot starter, short relief and long relief specialist.
With the knuckleball comes a real downside. If the pitch is not working there is no real secondary pitch to call on. Knuckleballers were created from the simple fact their original stuff was not good enough.
Most will “show” a curve or occasional fastball, but the main course is the K-Ball. Dickey tosses it 87% of the time. With Wright the short sample for 2014 is a 70% rate. Fall behind and many have to resort to a secondary pitch for a strike.
A great knuckleball is like swatting a fly blindfolded. A bad knuckleball can result in the six-home run game of Wakefield’s a few years back. There seems no middle ground.
Wright has gotten attention. His versatility is what managers and coaches love. One inning or five innings and even back-to-back extended stints are a joy when the rest of the staff is burnt.
In spring training, Wright will show up and look to impress. While the others toss heat Wright will practice on flummoxed batters. The yin to the yang of Rubby De La Rosa.