Wright happy to have Wake around

February, 25, 2013
2/25/13
4:33
PM ET
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Tim Wakefield was in attendance at Florida Auto Exchange Park on Monday to watch fellow knuckleballer and Red Sox project Steven Wright for the first time.

"I haven't seen him on video, live, nothing," said Wakefield, who pitched for the Red Sox for 17 years before retiring prior to the 2012 season.

[+] EnlargeSteven Wright
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports "I was a little nervous, knowing I would be pitching in front of two of the best. Once I got settled in, everything went smooth," said Wright.
On Monday, he finally did and Wright turned in a nifty performance, striking out three and walking two over two scoreless innings.

Wakefield doesn't know just yet what his official title will be with the Red Sox, but he does know he will serve as a mentor to Wright.

Ironically, R.A. Dickey, the only active major league pitcher who throws the knuckleball as his primary pitch, started against Wright on Monday, when a split-squad lineup of Red Sox players beat the Blue Jays, 4-2. Dickey, acquired in the offseason by Toronto, gave greater credence to the knuckleball fraternity when he captured the 2012 National League Cy Young Award after striking out 230 in a 20-win season with the Mets.

"I was a little nervous, knowing I would be pitching in front of two of the best," said Wright, who tossed 40 pitches, 25 for strikes. "Once I got settled in, everything went smooth."

Wakefield said he will offer similar advice to 28-year-old Wright that he received from other knuckleballers like Joe and Phil Niekro, Charlie Hough, and Tom Candiotti.

“The same thing guys before me offered me, just somebody to talk to who knows something about the pitch he’s throwing," said Wakefield, who turned to the knuckleball early in his career while with the Pirates. "When I was just coming up, I had pitching coaches that told me, I don’t know anything about it. It’s refreshing to be able to contribute to the legacy of a pitch by helping him out."

On Monday, Wakefield's abbreviated "classroom" time with Wright apparently paid off.

"He told me to move over to the first base side (on the mound) and to concentrate with leading with my foot when I make my delivery," said Wright, who began throwing the knuckleball two years ago in the minors. "It basically kept me centered. Pitching over in the center, I would sometimes land off to the third-base side and my pitches would go (high) or sometimes down (low). Then, I would have to make adjustments over the next three, four pitches. I don't see that happening now. Leading with the foot, as opposed to the body, helps me stay straight with my delivery."

Wright, who was acquired from the Indians for first baseman Lars Anderson last July, has yet to pitch in the majors. In his first full season throwing the knuckleball, he went 10-7 with a 2.54 ERA while striking out 119 with Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket.

"It's a blessing to have Wake here," said Wright, who admitted being nervous pitching in front of Wakefield and Dickey. "It shows the organization believes in me and my talent to bring him in to work with me."

Wright, who expects to get a more intensive lesson from Wakefield on Wednesday, said he also benefitted from watching Dickey's preparation.

"It was good to see how he paces himself and watch the timing between his warm-ups and when he gets on the mound and how long he takes between pitches," said Wright. "It was hard to see the movement of his pitches from the side, but it was still good to see the way he works."

As far as Wakefield, the organization still needs to determine how he will be used this season.

“It’s up to the coaching staff,” Wakefield said. “I think it’s a great move on the organization’s part to bring me in. When I was here, we had guys like Luis Tiant and Jim Rice. It’s nice to add some more people to that list -- guys that knew what it meant to wear a Red Sox uniform and guys who knew what it meant to compete at the major league level for a long time. To be kind of a sounding board for guys. Hey, they’re not afraid to have extra coaches around. If I could get information from somebody else, why not? I think that’s a valuable asset the organization has taken pride in, bringing former guys in like Pedro [Martinez]. Our job is to help the Red Sox win, even though we’re not playing anymore. It’s to help them win. They understand that.”

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