Notable Quotables: Doing the knuckle shuffle
By Jake Seiner
The game story isn’t always the best place for block quotes and expanded thoughts, so once a week, I’m hoping to come here with a look back at some of the more interesting conversations I stumble upon with Minor League players and coaches. Here’s a look back at some quotes from the past week that I hope you’ll find of interest.
Boston knuckleballer Steven Wright on recent mechanical adjustments (PawSox knuckler Wright hurls shutout):
“I’m still new to throwing the pitch. Today, for me, it was just, I stride as far as my leg goes. What I mean by that is, other pitchers like to drive off the mound. I drive off the mound, but I try to let the foot just fall. That allows my hand to stay kind of from straight back to straight forward and keep somewhat of a whip. My hand stays on a straight path.
“When I stride too far, what happens is my elbow will start to drop, and I’ll start to push the ball. What happens is the ball will still move, but it doesn’t have that late drop. That’s what makes the knuckleball good, is having the ball going in on a downward angle. That’s how you get those misses.
“The knuckleball is a contact pitch. When you got them pounding it into the ground, you’re giving yourself an opportunity. You’re going to give up hits, but the more times you get the ball hit on the ground, the more chances you have of getting outs. Especially when you need that ground-ball double play or need that big out. When the ball is diving down and in on a righty or away, if there’s somewhat of a downward angle, that’s how you give yourself an opportunity to get early, quick outs.”
Toronto prospect Kevin Pillar on his journey to Cal State-Dominguez Hills and to pro baseball (Bisons’ Pillar excelling in Triple-A trial):
“It was really the only option. I had a couple other places I could’ve gone, but there was nothing that kept me within the couple hour radius of home. Coming out of high school, I didn’t think I was ready to go far away from home, plus my parents really enjoyed watching me play and love coming to see me play. When I went from high school to Dominguez Hills, it wasn’t a dream school by any means, but it gave me a chance to play right away, and it was about 40 miles from my house.
“To be honest, I thought after my junior year I had a chance to be drafted. There was no guarantee in my mind that I would’ve taken the offer, because I would’ve had to have been given a decent amount of money, a life-changing amount. I was OK with going back for my senior year to get my degree, although with how I think now, if I had been drafted, I probably would’ve just gone.
“I was devastated, heartbroken, when I wasn’t drafted after my junior year. I played summer ball in the Northwoods League, and it was my first time with wood bats. I made up my mind that I was going to sell out and do everything possible to not let that happen again my senior year. I put in a lot of work while I was out in Wisconsin for the summer. When I came back in the offseason and was getting ready for fall ball, I just fully committed myself to doing whatever was possible to have a good season, win some games and get myself drafted.
“Fast-forward to after my senior year, I think I didn’t try to set high expectations for the draft, but I was definitely thinking I’d go earlier than the 32nd round. I had my sights set somewhere between the eighth and ninth rounds to even the 20th round. I remember being with family and close friends and just listening to all of day two of the Draft, waiting for the phone to ring or to hear something on the Internet. It never happened.
“It was kind of the same feeling I had after my junior year. I was pretty devastated. To be honest, I almost didn’t get up in time to listen on day three of the Draft. I was in the kitchen making breakfast and I heard my name over the Internet, and then I got a call from an area scout [Kevin Foxx] telling me I was drafted.”
St. Louis’ Jimmy Bosco on adjusting from NAIA college baseball to the New York-Penn League (Spikes’ Bosco cycles in eighth game):
“People throw slightly harder. They make better plays. They’re slightly smarter. It’s just kind of a continuous pyramid, per se, that continues upward into the upper ranks of the Minor Leagues. Players continue to get better. I played at the University of Arkansas for several years, and they threw hard there, and that was comparable. This is very good, competitive baseball. It’s been a good adjustment.”
Kansas City’s No. 2 prospect Kyle Zimmer on the first half of his season (Zimmer carries no-hitter into sixth):
“There have definitely been situations where I’ve been trying to be too perfect. I’ll miss a little bit and leave one ball up and it’ll turn into a three-run inning. That would cause the box score to look pretty rough. I feel like I’m making good strides mechanically and mentally. I’m going out there and getting better every day.”
Greenville pitching coach Paul Abbott on right-hander Luis Diaz’s changeup (Righty Diaz steers gem for Drive):
“It really compliments his fastball, and even more so the last few times out. It mirrors his fastball. It’s a good, swing-and-miss changeup with good arm speed that drops away from lefties, and he uses it against right-handers as well. He had all three working today, and the results were good.
“He was young [when I coached him at Lowell in 2011]. His changeup really developed that year, and he had a really solid year. His slider was still lacking. He still had good life to his fastball, but not as live as it is now. He would flash it once in a while, but the consistent velocity wasn’t there. He got a little too changeup happy, I think. Now, he’s a big, strong kid with a good, live arm throwing 92-95 [mph], mixing a good changeup with that slider, and he’s vastly improved. It gives him a good three-pitch mix to throw at hitters.”