It dances, dips, dives, and dies. It allows pitchers to throw until they are 48 (Hoyt Wilhelm), sends catchers to retirement (John Flaherty), and can turn first basemen into pitchers (Time Wakefield). Now it seems that knuckleball pitchers are few and far between. However, there are still a few young pitchers who have adopted the floater.
Charlie Haeger is a 26 year old righty in the LA Dogers organization. He is now pitching for the AAA Albuquerque Isotopes. He was named to the Pacific Coast League All-Star team for 2009. He probably has the brightest future for any young knuckleballer.
The 25th road draft pick in the 2001 draft has three years of MLB experience. He made his debut in a spot start for the White Sox on May 10, 2006. He has also pitched in the bigs for the Padres in 2008. He is 1-2 with a 6.35 ERA and 24 strikeouts in his MLB career.
Haeger has also been apart of knuckleball history. On July 22, 2007, Haeger came in in relief for starter Jon Garland. The opposing pitcher was fellow knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. This marked the first time in recent history the two knuckle pitchers threw against each other in the same game. Wakefield came out on top, 8-5.
Although at 34 R.A. Dickey is no spring chicken, being a knuckleball pitcher, he could have ten years left in him. Dickey is the least generic knuckleballer, throwing mid 80s with his fastball, and a knuckler in the mid to high 70s. Dickey's major league career is just as strange as his pitching style.
Dickey adopted the knuckler in 2006. His first start with the K-ball didn't go as planed. He tied the live-ball record in home runs given up (6), along with fellow knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. He was then sent down to AAA Oklahoma Redhawks.
In 2007 he signed a minor league contract with the Brewers AAA team, the Nashville Sound. He finished the year with a 12-6 record and a 3.80 ERA, and was named the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year.
Dickey next pitched in the bigs for the Mariners on April 14, 2008. On August 17, 2008, he tied another record by throw four wild pitches in an inning. Dickey is now in the Twins organization
Note: When Dickey was first drafted, he was initially offered an $810,000 signing bonus. However it dropped to $75,000 when a team physician found out that he doesn't have the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm. Dickey was quoted as saying, "Doctors look at me and say I shouldn’t be able to turn a doorknob without feeling pain . . . "
The 29 year old Zink, has been in the Red Sox organization his entire career. He was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2002 because of a recomendation by former Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant. Tiant had coached Zink at the Savanah College of Art and Design.
In 2003, Zink was named the Sarasota Pitcher of the Year, posting a 3.90 ERA through 136 innings of work. Zink would then split time between AA Portland and AAA Pawtucket in 2005-2007.
In 2008, Zink got a chance to pitch in the bigs. On August 12, Zink got a spot start against the Texas Rangers. He allowed eight earned runs on eleven hits in four and two thirds innings and earned a no decision because the Sox would go on to win 19-17. That was Zink's only MLB appearance.
Although Summers is a bit of a long shot, I love his story. He was drafted by the Diamondbacks as a catcher in 2005. After hitting around the Mendoza line at .182 in 2005 and .200 in 2006 for Missoula in Rookie league. In 2007 he converted to a knuckleballer.
Note: In 2007, minorleaguebaseball.com voted Summers as having the best name of all non-big leaguers. He beat out Rowdy Hardy, Henry Henry, and Noochie Varner.