By Chris Ryan
Boston, MA- Stephen Wright began this season as he has each previous in his baseball career, as an afterthought.
Wright, 31, figured to be a long reliever for the Boston Red Sox, perhaps the knuckleballer would once again be a spot starter.
Despite a ERA of 4.09 last year he was being overlooked for a rotation spot, but after not making his major league debut until the age of 28 and having not yet spent an entire season in the big leagues, beggars couldn’t be choosers.
However, a knee injury in spring training to starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez changed everything as a starting slot opened up. But, still the rotation spot wasn’t handed to Wright, he was forced to compete with Henry Owens and Roenis Elias for it.
Well, he won it, and hasn’t looked back.
Wright is unquestionably the best pitcher in the American League to date with a sparkling 2.01 ERA leads the league and his three complete games has him tied for the most in baseball.
That should not only earn him a spot on the American League All-Star team, but he has also shown worthy to be the game’s starting pitcher.
“It’s out of my control,” said Wright. “The focus for us is on winning games and doing everything we can to go deep into October. If you start focusing on (the All-Star Game) it’s going to take my concentration away from making quality pitches.”
He has made a ton of those this year holding opposing batters to a .201 AVG (3rd best in the AL).
Knuckleball pitchers have had great success before, Hoyt Wilhelm and Phil Niekro are in the Hall of Fame and R.A. Dickey won the NL Cy Young Award in 2012. Wright is a bit different than those guys in that he frequently uses his fastball (85-87 MPH) and curveball. Wright also throws his knuckleball harder than Dickey and Red Sox Hall of Famer Tim Wakefield. His averages about 75 MPH, while there’s checks in at roughly 68 MPH.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to (my catchers for developing a good game plan), he said. “One thing we took talk about is who can we get ahead of with a fastball or curveball. Who can we beat late with one? Who should we avoid throwing a fastball to. We also read swings. Christian Vazquez has great job of calling fastballs. It’s just a tool, I can use to my advantage.”