Major League Baseball's version of The Beard has not pitched in the pros since the 2014 season. However, former San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers closer Brian Wilson is now beardless and looking for another shot at the majors.
This time, though, it's as a knuckleballer.
On Wednesday morning, the 34-year-old, who claims that he is "actually 26 biologically," threw a 30-minute bullpen session at USC where he revealed to Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports that he has worked out for "at least two teams in the past couple weeks."
With most of his throws coming in the form of knuckleballs, the eccentric hurler displayed supreme confidence in his pitch, via Brown: "That right there was an MVP-Cy Young knuckleball. You can write that down, too. No joke. ... I can already see myself out there throwing up some waffles."
After being released by the Dodgers, Wilson has spent the past two years throwing while "taking on real estate projects," per Brown.
"It was kinda good to lay back and figure out what I wanted," Wilson said. "It feels like a new leaf."
He rose to fame as the Giants closer, garnering three All-Star appearances, two World Series rings and 171 saves.
In 2010, which was the year of the team's first championship since 1954, Wilson led the majors with 48 saves, and he was the man on the mound to secure it:
He found such success in the majors thanks to a 95-mile-per-hour fastball and a nasty cutter that would top off near 89, per FanGraphs.
The knuckleball has been in Wilson's arsenal of pitches since he was 12 years old; however, he was told not to throw it while with the Giants to preserve the health of the team's catchers, per Brown.
Brown added that the pitch tops out around 74 miles per hour, and he is able to throw it at different arm angles:
Also, he grips it with the tips of his fingers, so does not bury his fingernails into the ball, and then does not push the ball as much as he throws it as he would a fastball. On Wednesday morning, he changed speeds with it, commanded it on both sides of the plate, up and down, threw it over the top and sidearm, and generally beat the hell out of the guy trying to catch it. The rest will be left for the hitters to decide, assuming Wilson gets into a team’s camp, which shouldn’t be so hard.
Now he's trying to fulfill his personal prophecy in the majors: "I always said that once my career was over I was coming back as a knuckleballer. I’m good with it. Man, I get to play a game. It’s going to be pretty fun.”
It is believed that he will attempt to return as a starting pitcher considering most successful relievers and closers in the majors need to have some big-time velocity.
However, if Wilson can catch on somewhere and prove that his knuckleball is a handful for opposing batters, he could have a number of successful seasons ahead of him.
Some of the game's most successful knuckleballers—whether it be Phil Niekro, Tim Wakefield or R.A. Dickey—have pitched well into their 40s.
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.