A good knuckleball has the unique ability to revive a baseball career. Tomo Ohka is looking to harness the pitch’s magic.
Ohka, who last appeared in the majors with the Indians in 2009, is attempting to make it back to The Show as a knuckleballer, according to NikkanSports.com. The 37-year-old reportedly turned to the pitch after having shoulder surgery in 2011.
Ohka broke into the majors with the Red Sox in 1999. He went 6-13 with a 4.61 ERA in 33 appearances (25 starts) over parts of three seasons with Boston before being dealt to the Montreal Expos with Rich Rundles in exchange for closer Ugueth Urbina. Ohka’s best big league season came in 2002, when he went 13-8 with a 3.18 ERA in 32 appearances (31 starts) with the Expos.
In addition to being dealt for Urbina, who saved 40 games for the Red Sox in 2002, Ohka is best known among Boston fans for his perfect game with Triple-A Pawtucket on June 1, 2000. It was the first no-hitter in PawSox history and the first nine-inning perfect game in the International League since 1952.
Ohka went 1-5 with a 5.96 ERA in 18 appearances (five starts) during his last major league season in 2009. The right-hander is 51-68 with a 4.26 ERA in 202 career major league appearances (178 starts). Ohka posted a 3.73 ERA in 21 games with the Toyama Thunderbirds of Japan’s Baseball Challenge League in 2013, and arrived in the United States in October to continue training.
“I threw a lot every day. I was able to confirm that I had been training properly on my own,” Ohka reportedly said (via MLB Trade Rumors). “I want to give it another shot if given the chance, even if I have to start in the minors.”
R.A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield are among those who have been able to harness the power of the knuckleball en route to successful big league careers, while Steven Wright, who started throwing primarily a knuckleball in 2011, appeared in four games with the Red Sox this past season. Ohka’s comeback bid is certainly a long shot, but long shots have paid off before, so we’ll see.
Below is a video of Ohka tossing his knuckler.