Knuckleballer Steven Wright to get first big league start Tuesday
|08.04.13 at 12:57 pm ET|
Fresh off a very good July that extended into a scoreless relief appearance in the big leagues to start August, right-handed knuckleballer Steven Wright will get his first major league start Tuesday in Houston against the Astros.
Manager John Farrell announced the decision Sunday morning, citing an effort to get the regular five starting pitchers an extra day of rest this turn through the rotation.
“It feels like a normality to me,” Wright said of getting the spot start after three MLB relief appearances. “I haven’t really thought too much of it. It’s the same as if you’re coming in the fifth or sixth, just starting in the first inning. For me it’s a key to go out there and throw quality knuckleballs in the zone and hope for the best.”
Wright, who was hit around for five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings in his major league debut April 23 against the Athletics, just completed his best month of the season. In 32 2/3 innings with Triple-A Pawtucket, he allowed eight earned runs (2.20 ERA) while posting a 1.25 WHIP, numbers that would look better if not for a six-run, 4 2/3-inning outing late in the month. Mixed in were a pair of complete-game shutouts, as well as 5 2/3 innings of scoreless relief in the big leagues against the Mariners July 11.
He also threw three shutout innings to pick up the win Thursday vs. Seattle.
Both Farrell and Wright credited that success to the hurler finding consistency in his delivery.
“Compared to what he was in spring training or what he was in spring training from a delivery standpoint, just repeating his release point, it’s much more consistent strikes,” Farrell said. “He’s starting to throw that knuckleball where he’s changing speeds on it, so to me in some ways he looks like a completely different pitcher from that night that he followed Aceves in that rain night against Oakland here [April 23].”
Wright explained that he has three knuckleballs in addition to his fastball and curve — his standard version, one in which he takes something off and another that he throws harder. The key, however, is finding the same release point.
“Once I’m more compact and more fluid with my mechanics as far as throwing the knuckleball, it allows me to add or subtract a little bit easier instead of just trying to throw a hard knuckleball,” said Wright. “If I just try to throw it hard, when I do try to change speeds, my release point is going to be different. But if I try to keep the same release point on every single knuckleball, it’s easier to add and subtract.”
Farrell said Wright has made strides since spending most of spring training in major league camp.
“Early on, when he would get into jams … he would just leap with his body,” said Farrell. “His body was out ahead of his arm too consistently. So when the inning would speed up on him, there was an inability or readiness to make those adjustments. He’s doing it now.”
According to Wright, he speaks with former knuckler Tim Wakefield weekly about both the mental and mechanical side of using the unorthodox pitch. He had a chance to break the news of his first major league start to Wakefield in person Sunday in the Red Sox clubhouse.
“It’ll be fun. I’m excited for it,” Wright said. “I don’t feel nervous. I might be, it’s kind of hard to say right now. But I think coming out of the [bullpen] the couple of times I have I think will help calm my nerves a little bit. I’m just going to go out there and hopefully throw strikes.”
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