While Kenny Rogers tempts fate by telling another lensman “Dude, you’re getting too close,” (is the Gambler truly photo-phobic or is merely afraid of intimacy?), the Dallas Morning News’ far more enlightened Evan Grant turns his attention to the rest of the Rangers’ pitching staff.
Here™s a novel potential solution to at least one gaping hole in the Rangers™ rotation:
Manager Buck Showalter threw out the possibility the other day when discussing R.A. Dickey (above). He said the club was trying to convince Dickey that the best way to a long-term major league career might be to go to the knuckler.
Don™t laugh. It makes sense.
Your brilliant baseball insider, who long ago decided Phil Niekro was his favorite player on his favorite team, has been thinking a lot about the knuckleball lately.
First, let™s be up front: The knuckleball is hard to learn, harder to control and completely at the whim of air currents. It is, in a lot of ways, a gimmick pitch.
But it might be exactly what the Rangers need to thicken their rotation and give depth to their bullpen. Consider the case of Tim Wakefield, who regularly rescues Boston by pitching from the rotation one day and out of the ™pen the next.
A team with a thin rotation that plays half its game in a pitcher-eating park needs a knuckleballer. The knuckleballer can relieve stress in two areas. He can pitch long into games without concern for pitch counts. He can come back on just one or two days™ of rest to pitch an inning to bail out an overworked bullpen.
The knuckleball is œpushed™™ rather than thrown with full exertion. Because it is not a maximum-effort pitch, it take little toll on the thrower™s arm. Because it doesn™t take much effort, a pitcher might be in better shape to pitch seven innings in 100-degree summertime heat.
And it can have effects that last beyond just one start. Drop a knuckleballer into the second spot in the rotation behind lefty Kenny Rogers (providing he™s around next year) and now you™ve got hitters having to adjust from a lefty to a fluttering knuckleball, then having to adjust on the third day of a series to the big, tall Chris Young and his unique arm slot. Having a knuckleballer in front of him could make Young a lot more effective.
It™s an interesting concept. It™s hard to just pull off, but it™s interesting. And if there is anyone who™s got the nerve to go to the mound with nothing more than a slightly below average fastball and a fluttering knuckler and get guys out, it™s Dickey.
He could be the next generation™s Charlie Hough.