Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Beautiful Knuckler

As someone who tries to watch the game with some attention and intensity, watching a knuckleball pitcher is an interesting challenge. You can't predict where it will go, what speed it will attain, and whether the batter will "wave at it" or not. I can't imagine being in the box and trying to hit it. I quote McCarver (ugh) here: "Hitting that thing is like trying to catch a butterfly with a pair of tweezers."

The pitcher pictured above - who throws a knuckleball well - says: "When it's working, it's a lot of fun. I can imagine the batters saying to themselves, 'I can't hit that thing.'" Tim must have had a lot of fun last night, because his knuckleball was definitely "working." He may not have gotten credit for the win and his efforts were somewhat overshadowed by the returns of Doug Mirabelli and that other guy. But he threw a heck of a game. The ball was floating beautifully, even with the strong wind. He just looked like our old Wake again - relaxed and focused.

And it was the first time I was relaxed watching Wake pitch this year. Watching Bard try to catch him had become an exercise in pure torture and frustration. I'm not faulting Bard - and all the parties involved made pains to say that they were sure he could have caught on to the job given a chance to learn it. But the fast lane we call the AL East is NOT the place you want to be running a driver's ed class.

If you want to read more about knuckleballs, let me recommend a new book by Dave Clark, called The Knucklebook: Everything You Need to Know About Baseball's Strangest Pitch. (Published by Ivan R. Dee, Chicago). Lots of great information on the mechanics behind the knucker.

The other highlight of the night was return of backup catcher Doug Mirabelli. What drama - you couldn't have scripted it better. Doug jumping on a charter flight in San Diego, screaming across country to arrive at Logan at 6:30 or so. A state trooper greets him on the tarmac - he jumps into a police vehicle and they go screaming through the streets of Boston to arrive at Fenway at a little after 7. Doug is in uniform - because they handed him one IN THE CAR to change into! (Best line: "Have you ever ridden in a police car before?" [Mirabelli] was asked. "That was the first time naked," he replied.) He dashes through the clubhouse, to arrive in the dogout several minutes late but still in time to start! (Schilling was quoted on WEEI today as saying Doug was so rushed, he didn't wear a cup for the first inning. Yikes, that could have been costly).

The reception he got in Fenway must have make him feel SSOO good! According to Sign On San Diego:
He wasn't an ideal fit in the Padres clubhouse or with the pitching staff. Even friend and former Red Sox teammate Mark Bellhorn said Mirabelli dearly missed Boston. “I know he enjoyed his time there,” Bellhorn said. “Talking to Nomar (Garciaparra), when you're in that atmosphere, it's hard to go to another place that doesn't have it.”
One report I read today said that he was watching every Sox game, keeping up with the team. Man, I'm psyched that he's back!

My other favorite line of the night comes from Joe Torre. Speaking about Mike Myers' match-up with David Ortiz: "He is going in there to wrestle a lion with a penknife"

And as for tonight....how about some more Fisk mojo - it's worked so far!