A knuckleball saved R.A. Dickey’s career. It’s now doing the same for Steven Wright. But just how high is Wright’s ceiling as he continues to cement his spot in the Boston Red Sox’s rotation this season?
Some hardware could be in Wright’s future if we’re to believe the assessment of one former knuckleballer.
“It reminded me of Dickey in his Cy Young season,” Steve Sparks, who pitched nine seasons in the majors (1995-2004), told Bleacher Report’s Danny Knobler after watching Wright toss a complete game Sunday against the New York Yankees in which he allowed only one run on three hits.
While Sparks didn’t exactly predict Wright will follow in the footsteps of Dickey, who went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA and 230 strikeouts for the New York Mets en route to the 2012 National League Cy Young Award, the ex-knuckleballer does see plenty of potential in the Red Sox right-hander.
“To be honest, watching Steven, I really think he has a chance to do this for a long time,” Sparks told Knobler.
It’s important to note that Dickey didn’t figure things out until he was 37 years old. Wright, on the other hand, is hitting his stride at age 31 — young by knuckleball standards — and theoretically should get better as he becomes more comfortable within Boston’s big league rotation.
Wright will enter his next outing with a 3-3 record and a 1.52 ERA in six starts this season. His 282 ERA+ is tops in the American League entering Thursday.
So, what makes Wright’s knuckleball so effective?
“You can see that his palm is behind the ball, and that takes the spin off it,” Sparks said, according to Knobler. “That’s key, and it’s hard to do.
“As a conventional pitcher, you’re taught to throw downhill toward the catcher. But I learned from (fellow knuckleballer) Charlie Hough that with the knuckleball, you don’t want to do that. The key is to pick out a high target, then figure out how to keep your hand on the ball as long as you can. (Wright) has his palm behind the ball. He’s not tilting forward, and that’s how you get that dancing movement.”
Wright might not win a Cy Young Award anytime soon. Heck, he might never even be an All-Star. But he sure looks like he can pitch in The Show.
And that in and of itself is impressive considering the scarcity of knuckleballers across the league.
Thumbnail photo via David Banks/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Steven Wright of the Boston Red Sox