Red Sox Notes: Steven Wright Can’t Perfect Knuckleball In Texas Heat

The Arlington, Texas, humidity wasn’t kind to Steven Wright.

The Boston Red Sox knuckleballer, who boasts the American League’s best ERA at 2.18, had arguably his worst start of the season Saturday in a 10-3 loss to the Texas Rangers. While Boston’s defense was responsible for five of Wright’s eight runs, he still didn’t have his best stuff.

And you can partly blame the sticky, 88-degree weather for making it difficult for Wright to grip his already hard-to-control knuckleball.

“I had a tough time throwing the knuckleball for a strike,” Wright said, per The Providence Journal’s Brian MacPherson. “I felt like I couldn’t throw a good one over the plate. I had to rely a lot of my fastball. When I do that, it’s usually not going to be a good day for me.”

Wright surely would rather take responsibility for his rough outing, but knuckleballers are affected by wet weather more than other pitchers. The 31-year-old’s only other bad start this season saw him give up five runs over 4 1/3 innings against the Houston Astros on May 13, and it’s no coincidence that there was a steady rain falling at Fenway Park that day.

Wright threw just 55 of his 98 pitches for strikes Saturday, and he had a lot of difficulty keeping the ball down. But no matter who or what you choose to blame for his latest start, it’s undeniable that Wright’s pitches simply weren’t getting the job done.

“I tried changing speeds,” Wright said, per MacPherson. “I tried throwing curveballs. I was trying to throw the kitchen sink at them. It wasn’t working.”

Here are some more notes from Saturday’s loss.

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— The Red Sox’s bullpen is taxed to the limit from the last five games, but Boston manager John Farrell told reporters there likely won’t be any call-ups Sunday. Clay Buchholz is going to have pitch deep into the series finale for Boston’s relievers to get some much-needed rest.

— Boston might have a catching dilemma in the very near future.

Ryan Hanigan is close to returning from the 15-day disabled list, Sandy Leon is out of minor-league options and Christian Vazquez is really struggling at the plate. And with Leon going 12-for-22 since being called up, the Red Sox likely won’t want to risk putting him on waivers so they could send him to Pawtucket. That means we could see a situation where Vazquez gets sent to Triple-A.

“(Leon’s) doing an excellent job,” Farrell said, per the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato. “All things being equal, the offense certainly weighs into (the competition). At the same time, because of the attrition rate at the position, we have to be careful too from our perspective as well, from an organizational depth standpoint. You’re always, as I said the last couple of times, you’re a foul tip away from needing the next guy.”

— Dustin Pedroia has a big double play problem. The second baseman grounded into two twin killings Saturday, giving him 14 on the season, which passed Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Albert Pujols for the most in Major League Baseball.

Pedroia is batting .318 without runners in scoring position but just .254 with them.

— Remember when everyone wanted Cole Hamels at last season’s trade deadline? The Philadelphia Phillies ended up dealing the left-hander to the Rangers, but it turns out Hamels would have waived his no-trade clause for the Red Sox, too.

However, Hamels did tell WEEI’s Rob Bradford on Friday that a Phillies-Red Sox trade never was close to happening.

“I’m sure everybody is open to the Red Sox,” Hamels said. “You see the guys they have. They have guys. I think the value that (the Phillies) put on me and the value that they wanted in return I think were non-talking points for the Red Sox. Both sides didn’t have to change, and why would they?”

Thumbnail photo via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Jun 25, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Steven Wright (35) throws during the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

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