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Knuckleballer, Eddie Bonine, Looks To Crack Phillies Roster

Earlier on in the offseason, the Philadelphia Phillies went out and signed reliever Eddie Bonine to a minor-league contract. Not many fans were aware of the move when it occurred; however, Bonine may become a fan favorite if he can develop into his knuckleball into a secret weapon for the Philadelphia bullpen.

The biggest issue of concern for Philadelphia this offseason, besides re-signing Jayson Werth, is reconstructing their beat-up bullpen.

The acquisition of Bonine, who pitched for the Detroit Tigers last season, won’t draw any headlines, especially since the contract was just a minor-league deal, but if he can find success in the Phillies’ farm system early on, he could be walking out of the bullpen in Citizens Bank Park in no time.

The reason he’s not just another minor league prospect is the fact that he is a knuckleball pitcher. For Philadelphia fans, the last time the city has seen a knuckleball specialist was in 1947 when Dutch Leonard joined the team for just one season after spending the majority of his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Washington Senators.

Besides Leonard, the Phils have had one other knuckleball specialist, Lew Moren. He pitched with the club in the early 1900’s, and was one of four pitchers credited with inventing the pitch.

The knuckleball, which is said to have an erratic, unpredictable motion, has been rejuvenated in the 2000’s.

Tim Wakefield, who began his career in 1992, has continued to baffle hitters with his version of the knuckleball, while Charlie Haegar and R.A. Dickey have recently found success with the pitch.

Dickey, who pitches for the rival New York Mets, went 11-9 with a 2.84 ERA in 2010; while Haegar struggled this past season, going 0-4 with an ERA above eight.

Bonine, the newest knuckleball pitcher on the scene, will try to earn a spot on the Phillies’ 40-man roster heading into the season and give the club a newfound weapon in their bullpen. With the Phils having just four current relievers on their staff, Bonine’s chances of cracking the roster may not be as far-fetched as it seemed when he signed the contract back on November 12.

Early on in 2010, Bonine pitched very well, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“This past season, Bonine made one start and spent the bulk of the year in long relief. Through July 25, he was 4-0 with a 2.72 ERA. The rest of the season, he went 0-1 with an 8.72 ERA.”

He finished the season with a record of 4-1 and an ERA of 4.63. In 63 appearances since he entered the league three seasons ago, Bonine has compiled a record of 7-3 with a 4.73 ERA.

Now if you’re asking yourself why the Tigers would cut ties with a young knuckleball pitcher, there is an explanation… which I purposely saved for the end.

He does have a poor strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.18-to-1 (26 strikeouts, 20 walks). But that is expected when a knuckleballer begins his career.

Wakefield finished with 75 walks and 59 strikeouts in his second season in the majors, and Dickey had 51 walks with 58 strikeouts in 2008 with the Seattle Mariners.

So don’t let his control struggles scare you away just yet, because no one can determine where a knuckleball will go, not even Wakefield, who has been in the league for 18 years.

Once he gets a feel for the knuckleball, Bonine will be a weapon for Philadelphia.

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Posted by on Dec 5 2010. Filed under MLB, National League, News, Phillies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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