Triple-A Pawtucket starting pitcher and knuckler Steven Wright was scratched from his Sunday start, but not because of injury. Well, not because of any injury of his, anyway -- with Joel Hanrahan shut down for a few days to rest his hamstring, Wright is likely the next pitcher to be called up to Boston's bullpen since fellow PawSox arm Alex Wilson is already there.
Hanrahan has dealt with hamstring soreness throughout the spring, but when it reportedly started to effect his performance on the mound, John Farrell showed off a short leash for him and then shut him down the next day to give the reliever time to heal. Pitching coach Juan Nieves explained the issue to Evan Drellich this past weekend:
"When you bring your left leg, when he comes up, and it swings back past the right leg, he creates a little bit of a dive," Nieves said Saturday. "Almost like going forward, creating a little bit of a dive, and from that action you have to come and be more rotational.
"The pitches don't stay true," Nieves said. "Elevating pitches, he's not able to throw the ball down and away to righties, as you saw with (Manny) Machado (on Monday) coming in. Breaking balls become inconsistent, they become bigger instead of tighter, sharper."
Hopefully, his hamstring will feel better after a few days off, and Nieves and Hanrahan can work on this mechanical issue in that space in a no pressure environment. If not, however, and things are still problematic, that's where Wright could come in.
The knuckler has had some control issues in his 10 innings with Pawtucket this season, but he's also struck out 11 batters and induced a plethora of ground outs. If the Red Sox simply need another arm in the bullpen for a few days, bringing in someone like Wright who can keep hitters off balance for an inning with a knuckler isn't the worst thing. It might also end up being his eventual role with the club, if the rotation never needs his presence.
There are questions about just what Wright would be able to provide in the majors, and they are legitimate ones. It's hard to tell if a knuckleballer is going to be a capable major-league pitcher until he either is or is not, because the pitch is just so unpredictable that it's nigh impossible to scout and project. You know a knuckler can get the job done once they do, but even then, how long they will be effective remains an open question.