Steven Wright: Did the Boston Red Sox Quietly Trade for the Next Tim Wakefield?

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Steven Wright: Did the Boston Red Sox Quietly Trade for the Next Tim Wakefield?
Photo courtesy boston.redsox.mlb.com

About the only thing I know about Steven Wright is that he says some things that really make no sense at all.

Things like:

"I drive way too fast to worry about cholesterol."

"Don't you hate when your hand falls asleep and you know it will be up all night?"

"I invented the cordless extension cord."

Oh, wait...we're not talking about that Steven Wright?

My bad.

Fans of the Boston Red Sox probably know the comedian known as Steven Wright very well—he was born and raised in eastern Massachusetts.

But the Steven Wright that the Sox traded for on Tuesday? Not so much.

The one identifying feature about Wright is the fact that he throws a knuckleball, which is what Sox fans can relate to, having watched Tim Wakefield spin his magic at Fenway Park for 17 seasons.

Wright was dealt for Lars Anderson, a once-heralded hitting prospect who never quite developed into the hitter that Boston expected, and was seemingly stuck behind Adrian Gonzalez at first base and in the outfield, where at least six or seven players were listed on the depth chart in front of him.

Wright was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the second round of the 2006 MLB draft, and when he was drafted from the University of Hawaii, the knuckleball was not a part of his repertoire.

Wright made it to Triple-A in 2009 but was unable to replicate the success he achieved at the lower levels, being sent back down to Double-A ball on two separate occasions.

After finding himself back at the lower levels again in 2010, Wright realized he needed to make a change if he was going to live out his dream of reaching the majors.

He started "messing around" with the knuckleball, originally intending to use it as an out pitch. Now, some two years later, it's his bread and butter.

For his entire major league career, Wakefield thrived with using just one pitch—a knuckleball. His path to the majors was a bit different from Wright's, however. Drafted originally as a first baseman by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1988, Wakefield quickly found out that hitting at the professional level as opposed to the amateur level was quite a bit different.

Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Wakefield became the third all-time winningest pitcher in Red Sox history.
Eventually, a scout in the Pirates' organization told Wakefield that he would never advance higher than Double-A ball with the current skill set that he possessed.

Wakefield began tinkering with a knuckleball in 1989 and was converted to a pitcher by the Pirates in 1990, making his pitching debut in Single-A ball. Two years later, Wakefield helped lead the Pirates to the NL East division title, posting an 8-1 record and 2.15 ERA down the stretch, and then winning two games in the NLCS to boot.

Three years later, after floundering while trying to find his way with the knuckler, the Pirates released Wakefield, who was then picked by the Red Sox. Seventeen years later, he retired just six wins shy of the Red Sox record for wins all-time, trailing only the great Cy Young and Roger Clemens.

Before Wright's trade to the Red Sox on Tuesday, Rob Leary, a former Red Sox coach now serving as the Indians' minor league field coordinator, reached out to Wakefield, asking him to have a conversation with Wright.

Now, Wright will have much more access to Wakefield, who now serves as a studio analyst for NESN, the Red Sox's cable television network.

There's no question there was a method behind this trade. Wright was 9-6 with a 2.49 ERA in 20 starts for Double-A Akron, and will now report to the Red Sox Double-A affiliate, the Portland SeaDogs.

Wright sees this as a clear opportunity to realize his dream and follow in Wakefield's footsteps.

"We just talked on the phone a little bit before my last start," Wright said. "It was nice to pick his brain.

Can Steven Wright be as successful as Tim Wakefield was in a Red Sox uniform?

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"Now that I'm with the Red Sox, it might be easier to have access to him."

Red Sox fans are lamenting the lack of moves made by the Sox front office before the trade deadline, with the Sox pulling off only one deal, picking up reliever Craig Breslow from the Arizona Diamondbacks for Matt Albers and Scott Podsednik.

While the trade for Wright certainly seems minor in comparison, it could pay dividends in the end.

It certainly did in the case of Wakefield.

 

Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.

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