08/27/2008 11:40 AM ET
R.A. Dickey: Changing my approach
M's veteran prolongs career by embracing his knuckleball
By R.A. Dickey / MLBPLAYERS.com
It's fair to say that I'm a completely different pitcher now than I was two years ago.
Back then I was a traditional pitcher, but now I'm a knuckleball pitcher. Becoming a knuckleball pitcher at this stage of my career is like a hitter converting to a switch-hitter late in his career. The transition has a high degree of difficulty, and it's still not fully complete, but I'm glad to be headed in this direction.
The knuckleball was always a part of my repertoire, but I just didn't feature it much. I would usually throw it four or five times a game at the most. It was good enough at the time, but my pitching coaches in Texas -- Orel Hershiser and Mark Connor -- suggested that I utilize the knuckleball as a way to prolong my career.
My decision to do so came midway through the 2005 season. I came back from an injury that year, and I found I had lost some velocity on my fastball. I decided it was the right time to switch over to the knuckleball.
I've come a long way, and I'm hopeful of what the future might bring with the knuckleball. Most pitchers have success later on in their careers with the pitch -- usually between the ages of 32 to 40 -- so in that sense, I'm still very young in my knuckleball career.
I've been used as both a starter and reliever, and I feel I'm suited for either role. As a knuckleball reliever, my ability to throw my knuckleball for strikes is advantageous. It took a long time to learn how to do that. When you come in for relief, you have to get guys out right away. When you're starting a game, there is a little more margin for error.
Tim Wakefield, who is by far the best modern knuckleballer, throws his around 60 to 68 mph. My knuckleball deviates from that standard a little. I throw mine from between 69 and 80 mph.
I also still have enough arm strength to throw a high 80s fastball when I need it. I feel like I have other weapons to go along with the knuckleball, which should make me that much more effective.
R.A. Dickey, the first-round pick of the Texas Rangers in 1996, joined the Seattle Mariners earlier this season as a knuckleball pitcher. The 33-year-old right-hander from Nashville, Tenn., is 4-8 with a 5.44 ERA.