#Hot Corner

Orioles stocking up on knuckleballers

Rob Carr

The Boston Red Sox, as you know, have long been the standard-bearers for knuckleball pitching.

The Red Sox employed Tim Wakefield for 17 years, they gave Charlie Zink a shot, and now they've got big (or medium) plans for Steven Wright.

Watch out for the Baltimore Orioles, though. Today, MLB.com's Benjamin Hill relates the story of O's farmhand Eddie Gamboa, who's been a knuckleballer for about two months and is already showing some real promise in Class AA:

"I always put up okay numbers, enough to keep getting a job again but not enough to get a promotion," said Gamboa, whose experience above Double-A amounts to four games with Triple-A Norfolk in May of last season. "My game was stuck, and I was doing what I could to figure it out."

Gamboa worked diligently on improving both his slider and fastball velocity over the offseason, but he was most likely headed for another season of the same old same old before fate intervened during Spring Training. The Orioles had invited a knuckleballer named Zach Staniewicz to camp, a 26-year-old Air Force reservist who had most recently played for the U.S. Military All-Stars. In mid March, legendary knuckleballer Phil Niekro arrived on the scene in order to provide Staniewicz with some personal tutelage, and Gamboa couldn't help but be intrigued...

--snip--

Gamboa has made four starts thus far, compiling an 0-1 record and 3.97 ERA over 22 2/3 innings pitched. Opponents are batting .200 against him and, perhaps most remarkably, he has only issued seven walks.

--snip--

Admittedly, Gamboa isn't yet feeding hitters an all-knuckleball diet. He's mixing the pitch in with the rest of his repertoire, throwing his new signature offering approximately half of the time.

Staniewicz caught on with the organization, too; he's currently in extended spring training, presumably hoping for an assignment with one of the Orioles' minor-league affiliates.

Both guys obviously face long odds, as does every 26- or 27-year-old pitcher in the minors who doesn't throw 95 miles an hour. But it's nice to have a bit more evidence that the knuckleball, while still endangered, is far from extinct.

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