7 questions you always wanted to ask a Red Sox knuckleball pitcher
Steven Wright (#65)
Eric D. Schabell Contributing Writer
This is a bit of a different story than you usually encounter here, one that came together a bit by chance, a bit by luck and due to the willingness of an athlete to impart knowledge on an inquisitive fan.
This story is about Steven Wright, the only knuckleball pitcher since Tim Wakefield to break into the Red Sox rotation.
We have seen him at Fenway in 2013 and 2014, breaking out of Triple-A after being traded to the Red Sox from the Cleveland Indians in July, 2012.
In attendance at Fenway that day, I watched Wright warming up in the bullpen pre-game and was amazed at the movement on his knuckleball.
It had pitching coach Juan Nieves saying, "Ooooh my!" many times during Wrights session.
It is impossible to explain the movement and speed variations that Wright applies to his knuckleball.
It has to be witnessed in person.
He went on in the game that day to relieve Rubby De La Rosa who imploded early, pitching 5 innings with 6 strikeouts, 1 walk, giving up just 2 hits and no runs.
It was impressive.
Wright signs for fans.
Later that week, before an afternoon game during his workouts, Wright was not scheduled to pitch so had some time for the fans. There were a few all the way from Holland there to congratulate him on his excellent game against Dickey. He spent time taking pictures and signed a ball for a boy of the Dutch fans, nice as could be.
Unfortunately there was a game to be played and he had to move off the field. He did not have enough time to talk about pitching, knuckleballs or any of the interesting things anyone who has pitched would want to ask.
Not willing to give up on the chance to ask a few of the questions you always wanted to ask a Red Sox knuckleball pitcher, we took to Twitter and here is what happened over a two day period.
1. The knuckle fraternity
I have always heard about the special bond that knuckleball pitchers have in the Majors, one that unlike normal pitchers see them sharing tips, ideas and talking freely about their craft.
The conversation started here.
@ericschabell I have spoken with RA and wake and Hough they have all helped me get to where I'm at and I look forward to continuing to talk
— Steven Wright (@Knucklepuck23) November 18, 2014
2. Tenure as a knuckleballer
The literature and various shows covering some of the other successful knuckleball pitchers make it clear that it is not an easy thing to do well. I was curious as to how long he had actually been working on pitching as a knuckleballer, even though we know he came into the Majors with the Indians as a normal right handed pitcher.
When one makes it into the Minors as a pitcher and then decides that it is not going to work out for him, there is a point that the switch to the knuckleball is made. That decision must be fascinating to see, the discussions and the people involved that eventually lead to a change in course. Who was that influence for Wright?
@ericschabell it was my choice but I worked with Candiotti when I was with Cleveland and he gave me the confidence and motivation to pursue
— Steven Wright (@Knucklepuck23) November 18, 2014
4. The pitch itself
Having heard and seen that various knuckleball pitchers like Dickey and Wakefield all hold their knuckleballs differently, the next question was to find out if there was a pattern here and who did Wright emulate?
This is apparently not a pitch the Wright spends time on.
6. The arsenal
This led to a question around the various pitches that Wright uses. During his outing against Dickey I saw him vary speeds on his knuckle and occasionally sneak in a fastball. Was there more he uses to trip up the hitters?
Having seen Wright twice in the 2014 season during pre-game workouts with the rest of the Red Sox bullpen, I was curious as to the workout regime would be less extreme than a normal hard throwing pitcher. We have all seen some of the knuckleball pitchers that seem to throw the ball so easily that there can't be much effort involved. Maybe the conditioning is less of a factor for them?
So the workouts remain the same as any other pitcher, with weight training, conditioning and of course running.
At this point the conversation dropped off and the answers stopped coming.
This does not take away from the fascinating glimpse that Wright was kind enough to give us during his off-season. Remember, this is a precious time for baseball players to spend with their family and loved ones after being constantly on the road.
It was great to get a chance to chat and soon thereafter we see that the training never stops. The path to the Majors is a hard one and Wright is committed to being the best knuckleball pitcher he can be.
Eric is a contributing writer since 2013 and a true Overseas Fan of the Boston Red Sox living in the Netherlands. He's spent years on baseball fields around the world pitching. His weekends are now spent helping the next generations of pitchers to find their passion and love for the sport. More articles by Eric: https://www.redsoxlife.com/search/label/ericschabell