Dickey's knuckleball debut unsuccessful

By Bob Hersom Modified: July 25, 2005 at 12:00 am •  Published: July 25, 2005
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"His slow one moves a lot, and his faster one kind of gets on you and does some late movement, sort of does some tumbling action," Richard said. "He's controlled it pretty well in practice, and any time you're facing a knuckleballer, as long as it's moving around, it's hard to hit. It doesn't matter what the speed is."

Allen has faced today's premier knuckleball pitcher, Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox, along with Jared Fernandez and retired knuckler Tom Candiotti.

"R.A. doesn't have as much movement on his knuckleball as Wakefield does, but the thing about it is, he can throw two different speeds for strikes," Allen said. "For him to be able to do that right now and to be able to control it is pretty impressive.

"For a guy who hasn't thrown it his whole life, it's pretty dang good. I think he's going to get better and better as time goes on. Plus, he's got two other pitches, fastball and curveball, that he can throw for strikes to back it up."

Dickey's fast knuckleball "The Thing" travels 81 to 82 mph. His slower knuckler is 68 to 75 mph.

"To stand out there on the hill and throw 70 mph is a tough thing to do," Dickey said. "It's a real mental hurdle for me to get over, to kind of float it in there. For me to do that, after having a career of doing the other, it's going to take some adjustments."

The Rangers recommended but didn't insist that Dickey try being a knuckleball pitcher. They left the decision up to him.

"Hopefully it will prolong his career in the big leagues," RedHawks manager Bobby Jones said. "They didn't tell him he had to do it, they suggested it."

RedHawks pitching coach Lee Tunnell said, "He's a good enough athlete and determined enough that he's the kind of guy who would be able to do it. And he's changing speeds on it. It'll be a work in progress, but he's committed to it and I think these last nine starts he has will be a good barometer."

Richard, who has faced more Dickey knucklers than anyone, said he thinks switching to the knuckleball is a great idea for Dickey.

"You never know what's going to happen because it's a freak pitch," Richard said. "Sometimes you square 'em up and sometimes you don't. There's really no way to prepare for it. You've just got to see it and hit it and do your best."

Dickey knows he will be sort of a knuckleball intern, a work in progress.

"It's not going to be an overnight miracle by any means. But it could be something that will put me over the top," Dickey said.

"A knuckleballer in Arlington could be pretty good because of the wind, because it gets a lot of ground balls, because you can go deep into games and because it's not necessarily a pitch that puts a lot of stress on your arm.

"If you've got a good one, it can carry you for a long time, prolong your career by eight, nine, 10 years."

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