February 25, 2013

New Red Sox knuckleballer shines in Florida

Steven Wright, who is working with former Red Sox star Tim Wakefield, pitched two scoreless innings and struck out three.

The Associated Press

DUNEDIN, Fla. — The knuckleball fraternity was in full force for Monday's game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox.

click image to enlarge

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Steven Wright throws a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays during the second inning of a exhibition spring training baseball game, Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey gave up two runs and four hits in his Toronto spring training debut while fellow knuckleballer Steven Wright pitched two scoreless innings for a Boston split squad in a 4-2 win over the Blue Jays.

"You don't see that too often," Toronto manager John Gibbons said of seeing two starters tossing knucklers.

Wright, a minor leaguer, gave up two hits and struck out three. Former Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who is working with Wright, was at the game.

"Just a little nervous because you want to do your best in general, but to have guys with the keen eye for the knuckleball (watching)," Wright said. "But once I got out there I felt pretty good."

Wright and Dickey have communicated by phone and text in the past. Wright sent a message to Dickey when he arrived for Monday's game.

"He texted me right before the game," Dickey said. "There just wasn't time to connect, so I'll have to connect with him, hopefully, when he pitches in the big leagues for the Red Sox."

Dickey was planning to text his Boston counterpart postgame.

"I think he pitched really well," Dickey said. "I'm pulling for him, of course. I know how hard it is."

Both pitchers seek advice from Wakefield. Dickey said he faced Wakefield a couple times as a reliever in games the former Red Sox standout started.

"He always has a good insight, so it's good to get with him when I can, especially to see me pitch live," Dickey said. "He can tell me if he sees something that's out of whack or not."

Red Sox manager John Farrell, who moved from Toronto to Boston during the offseason after managing the Blue Jays in 2011 and '12, was roundly booed by fans when his name was announced during the pregame starting lineup introductions. This was the first time Farrell has faced his former team.

"I appreciate that people might have differing opinions," Farrell said. "All I can do is go about my work day in and day out. People are going to form their own impressions. I can't control that. I thoroughly enjoyed the time there."

The Red Sox scored twice in the first on Jarrod Saltalamacchia's single and Dickey's wild pitch. The right-hander gave up a second-inning single to Mitch Maier, but also induced an inning-ending double play from Pedro Ciriaco.

Wright retired Jose Bautista on a fly that reached deep center despite a stiff wind blowing, and Edwin Encarnacion on a grounder after Melky Cabrera hit a one-out double in the first. He struck three and allowed a single during the second.

"That's the first time I feel like I've started against another knuckleballer, and we're real similar as far as speed," Dickey said. "I think he threw some really good ones today. And if he stays on that path, and continues to throw strikes with it, I think he has a bright future with it."

Blue Jays right-hander Josh Johnson followed Dickey and gave up one hit in two shutout innings. Encarnacion hit a solo homer.

Boston's Jackie Bradley Jr. had three hits and an RBI.

NOTES: Boston RHP Clay Buchholz will pitch in a simulated game on Tuesday. 1B Mike Napoli (hip) will be one of the hitters against Buchholz, who is scheduled to start a spring training game Saturday. ... Napoli could get at-bats in an exhibition game on Friday. ... Gibbons said his team feels badly that Yankees OF Curtis Granderson, who was hit by a pitch in Sunday's game between the teams, will be out up to 10 weeks with a broken right forearm. "He's one of the good guys," Gibbons said. "It's unfortunate. He'll be back better than ever." ... The Blue Jays claimed 1B Lars Anderson on waivers from the Chicago White Sox and transferred RHP Kyle Drabek from the 15- to the 60-day DL. The Red acquired Wright from Cleveland for Anderson last July.

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