August 20, 2013
KNUCKLING UPWARDS:A Fluttering Boost to Flickering Hopes (HILLEL KUTTLER, 8/12/13, NY Times)
Although the Orioles did not put a manicurist on the payroll, they did sign a consultant for 2013, Phil Niekro, who won 318 games in a 24-year career, riding the knuckleball from the moment the Milwaukee Braves signed him in 1958.Posted by Orrin Judd at August 20, 2013 1:50 PM
Niekro's assignment is to help the Orioles transform three pitchers into full-time knuckleballers: Clark, 30, now with Class A Frederick, Md.; Zach Staniewicz, 27, in the rookie Gulf Coast League; and Eddie Gamboa, 28, of Class AAA Norfolk, Va.
Baltimore's approach may be unconventional, but leaders in the organization are well aware of how effective the knuckleball can be. While managing the Texas Rangers in 2005, Showalter persuaded a flailing pitcher, R. A. Dickey, to take up the knuckleball. Last year, Dickey won 20 games for the Mets and earned the National League's Cy Young Award.
Dan Duquette, the Orioles' executive vice president for baseball operations, also has experience with a successful knuckleballer. When he ran the Red Sox, Duquette signed Tim Wakefield after the Pittsburgh Pirates released him in 1995. Wakefield pitched for 17 seasons with Boston.
The Orioles' strategy is a lifeline to pitchers trying to salvage their careers, and a low-risk, high-reward proposition for the organization.