It’s no secret: the Boston Red Sox have been baseball’s most underachieving team this season.
Big money busts such as Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval have plagued the team. Not to mention some horrific starting pitching, gruesome in-game managing and inconsistency from relied-upon players; it’s been pretty tough to watch. It seems as though nothing’s gone according to plan. For example, ex-president and CEO of the Sox, Larry Lucchino, left the Red Sox just a few days ago.
However, there have been a few standouts. Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia and Eduardo Rodriguez have all basically exceeded expectations. Bogaerts is batting well over .300. Betts has proved he can not only hit, but also play centerfield. Pedroia, though hurt right now, has been consistent while in the lineup and Rodriguez has had a solid first year.
However, there is a fifth standout and if you aren’t from Boston, you probably don’t know who he is.
For those not in the know, he’s a knuckleballer with one in the mid 70’s alongside a fastball that he rarely uses that sits in the high 80’s, sometimes touching the low 90’s.
For Wright, it hasn’t always been easy.
After being drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 2006, Wright spent 2007-2012 in the Cleveland farm system, before being traded to the Red Sox in 2012. In 2013 and 2014, Wright would have brief stints up with the big club, but was mostly relegated to Pawtucket.
This year in 2015, it was a lot of the same for him: coming out of the bullpen along with some starts thrown in that required him to take an underachiever’s spot, such as Joe Kelly or Justin Masterson. Also sprinkled in have been some send-downs to create room for much bigger names. As the year has progressed, he’s fit into the mold of the team more and more. Like fellow teammate Brock Holt, Wright is a super-utility man — just of the pitching variety.
For instance, on April 10th against the New York Yankees, he came into the game for relief in the bottom of the 15th. From the 15th on, he pitched 5 innings and was apart of the longest game at new Yankee Stadium. Wright was intended to start the next day, but was optioned to Triple-A that morning to make room for Kelly. There have been numerous other occasions in which he has come into the game for relief, or has warmed up for relief when he is going to start the upcoming day’s game.
The reason being for his “utilitiness” is due to the fact that he is a knuckleballer. The knuckleball puts no stress on your arm, and you’re not trying to throw the pitch hard. Where a normal starter with a 95 MPH fastball will have his arm sore the day after a 7-inning start, Wright is good to pitch again the next day after any inning start — 10, 7, 5, you name it: he’s good to go. Knuckleballers rely on movement, not speed. Yes, R.A. Dickey has a “faster” knuckleball than most, but that does not make his any more lethal than someone like Tim Wakefield‘s, whose knuckleball was in the mid-60s.
It’s all about the movement. As any baseball fan knows, the baseball dips and dives to the point where certain catchers are unable to catch it. However if the ball doesn’t knuckle, a home run derby shall commence. Speed only matters when the ball doesn’t knuckle because it will determine how quickly the ball leaves the yard.
Wright has been good all year, but the last two outings have been phenomenal.
On July 30th against the Chicago White Sox, Wright went 7 strong innings, giving up only 2 earned runs on 6 hits with 8 strikeouts. The two earned came off of a first inning Jose Abreu home run. Home runs have been the one ongoing problem for Wright throughout the year, but that’s expected with a knuckleball pitcher. Wright also out-dueled Chris Sale in this game, which was something no one expected.
Last night, Wright had his best start of the year. He went 8 strong innings against the Bronx Bombers, giving up 1 earned (a homer) on 4 hits, along with 9 strikeouts. Keep in mind: these stats came with a lineup of mostly lefties in a stadium with a short porch in right field. This start dropped his ERA to 4.12 and improved his record to 5-4. He also out-dueled another notable name: top prospect Luis Severino who was making his highly-anticipated Major League Debut.
The question then becomes what is Wright’s future from here?
He will continue to be the super-utility man for the rest of this disappointing campaign for the Sox. He’ll be in the starting rotation, while also coming in to relieve, whether it’s for a long period of time or a short duration.
For next year, if the Red Sox don’t trade him, he’ll probably be what he was this year, just without the Triple-A. He’ll still mainly come out of the bullpen, but basically be the “substitute starter” for anyone who is sick, hurt, or just simply needs a rest. After all that’s what Steven Wright is: he can do everything, and will do whatever it takes to stay in the Major Leagues.
He truly is the “Wright” man for every job. You just may not hear about it.