DUNEDIN, Fla. ‘ The notion of a knuckleball fraternity was thrown around a lot Monday. Made sense. It’s not every day both starters ‘ in this case the Red Sox ‘ Steven Wright and R.A. Dickey of the Blue Jays ‘ both offer the out-of-the-ordinary offering.
When asked after his experience what kind of fraternity we might be talking about, ‘Animal House’ or ‘Old School,’ Wright was quick to pick the latter. Understandable considering those with membership include 65-year-old Charlie Hough, 55-year-old Tom Candiotti, 46-year-old Tim Wakefield , 38-year-old Dickey, and, now, the baby, 28-year-old Wright.
In this case, however, the residence isn’t any sort of broken down mansion. They live within the confines of their smartphones.
This is what happens: Wright has a question and a group text is sent out.
Here is an example from earlier in spring training ‘¦
Wright texts to Hough, Candiotti, Wakefield and Dickey: ‘I encountered something today during live BP that I cannot remember having this bad, but the wind was blowing hard at my back and the knuckle was a little different for me. I got some movement but it was not much. What is your mindset when you encounter those conditions?’
Dickey was first to respond: ‘Change speeds more often and hang on.’
Wakefield: ‘Start a little lower and a little firmer to create your own resistance.’
Hough and Candiotti would also text back, albeit a bit later.
‘That’s what I do. I send out a group text because everybody has their own adjustments how it kicks in for them,’ Wright said. ‘That’s why I do it. I send it to Charlie, Dickey, Candiotti and Wake. That’s just o see what they all say, because what R.A. says and what Wake says might be two different things, but might mean the same thing and the terminology is different.’
But Monday, no texts were needed.
At approximately 10:30 a.m. Wright formally introduced himself, face-to-face, with Wakefield, who was visiting for the day. The pair immediately dove into knuckleball conversation, going back and forth with ideas for the next 30 minutes.
The results of the discussion were tangible.
‘He actually came in and was working with me a little before I went in the game and the biggest adjustment was I moved over to the first-base side of the rubber, which just allows my hand to stay in the window a little bit longer, and down to the center of home plate, and to lead to the center of home plate,’ Wright said. ‘Those two small adjustments I felt made a huge adjustment on my feel for the pitch and able to keep it in the strike zone.’
When it was all said and done, Wright had taken another step forward toward impressing upon the Red Sox that he can be counted on for the coming season.
Two innings, two hits, no runs, no walks, three strikeouts.
“I was a little nervous,” Wright said. “I was not scared, just a little nervous, because you want to do your best in general, but to have guys with a keen eye for the knuckleball … once I got out there, I felt pretty good.”