EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 18, 2013

Want roller coaster advice, ask Steven Wright

Christopher Smith
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Knuckleballer Steven Wright might just become the Red Sox’ next Mr. Versatility — much like knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

Yes, Wright had a terrible big league debut against Houston. He threw four passed balls and one wild pitch in a dismal three-run first inning.

But Wright has had a strong season. He entered his start yesterday with a 3.65 ERA and two complete game shutouts in 20 starts for the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox.

He also has two wins out of the bullpen for Boston this year. He pitched 8.2 scoreless innings in those two wins.

Wright went one-on-one with Eagle-Tribune writer Christopher Smith.

Smitty: Did you ever see Tim Wakefield pitch?

Wright: Yeah, I’ve seen him live like four or five times. I’ve seen him in the Metrodome when I was 12 and I’ve seen him in LA or Anaheim when I was 13 of 14.

When I was in the Cape (Cod) League, I went to two Red Sox games and both games he was pitching.

Smitty: You grew up in California so how did you happen to be at a game in Minnesota at 12 years old?

Wright: We had a (baseball) tournament in Burnsville and Lakeville, Minn. We actually had a kid that I played with, Justin Sellers (now a Dodgers infielder). His dad was Jeff Sellers and pitched for the Red Sox. And so when we were there, the Red Sox were in town.

Smitty: Was it Wakefield’s complete-game shutout in 1995 when he didn’t give up a hit until the eighth inning?

Wright: I think it was that game. It was so long ago but all I remember was he was just (unbelievable). Just watching him throw. And we were sitting right where the players come out. And I think Jim Rice might have even been the hitting coach.

I got a ball from that game. He (Rice) tossed it up. It was funny because we actually weren’t even supposed to be sitting in those seats. Our seats were back but we just sat there and nobody kicked us out. It was crazy.

Smitty: You must have gone to a lot of Angels games growing up in Southern California.

Wright: My dad works at Disneyland and they used to own the team so we’d get free tickets all the time.

Smitty: What does your dad do at Disneyland?

Wright: He started as a mechanic there. But now he teaches safety classes.

Smitty: What’s your favorite Disneyland ride?

Wright: Well, Indiana Jones is pretty sick. Space Mountain is pretty sick.

Smitty: So you probably got to go to Disneyland for free?

Wright: Yeah, I still do. (laughing).

Smitty: How often did you go there during summers as a kid?

Wright: When I was a kid, you’d go there four or five times. I used to play in Orange County. So if we had an early game, we’d go do (some rides) after.

Smitty: What’s the best ride you’ve been on in any park?

Wright: That’s hard to say because I’ve been to Cedar Point, too. Cedar Point has so many sick roller casters there. If you like roller coasters you’ve got to go to Cedar Point. Out of the top 10 (roller coasters), they’ve got like six.

Smitty: Have you worked to change the speed of the knuckleball?

Wright: It’s a feel thing. You definitely learn how to do it. You’ve got to be able to do it. It’s just like throwing the change-up. You’ve got to be able to throw it without telegraphing it to a certain extent. If you throw the knuckleball, then obviously they know it’s coming. You want to try to get it to change speeds so you get them out front, maybe jam them.

Smitty: Is your ability to better change speeds the main reason you’ve been more successful now than even in May?

Wright: Yeah, I think so. I think in May I was just trying to throw it hard. Now it’s more about staying under control with my mechanics and with my delivery. It allows me to kind of repeat the same release point. It’s like with any pitcher, if you can repeat the release point, the more consistent you’re going to be.

Smitty: You struggled during your first major league start in the dome in Houston. Tim Wakefield liked pitching in domes. Do you think you’ll eventually like pitching in them, too?

Wright: Yeah, because it definitely was moving a lot more than I anticipated. But the thing is that I was so erratic with it. It was breaking way left, way right. Usually I keep within a certain area. So it made it harder on (Ryan) Lavarnway.

I was definitely amped up because it was my first start (in the majors).

Smitty: Do you watch video of R.A. Dickey’s starts?

Wright: I like to watch when he gets hit around to be honest with you. If he throws good, I know why he’s throwing good. But it’s when he’s getting hit around and gives up four or five — those are the outings that I want to see because I want to see why and what’s the different in each outing.

Follow Eagle-Tribune baseball reporter Christopher Smith on Twitter @SmittyOnMLB