Storin: Spring training baseball an interesting watch, for a little while

storapse@aol.comFebruary 28, 2013 

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Spring training baseball games can be both interesting and boring at the same time.

Take Monday afternoon in this quaint little town on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

A crowd of 4,824 (mostly Canadian) fans turned out to watch a unique happenstance -- the starting pitchers were both knuckleballers.

R.A. Dickey, who won the Cy Young award as a New York Met last season, pitched for Toronto and unknown Steve Wright was on the mound for Boston. And Wright was the better pitcher this day as the Red Sox won, 4-2.

Boston got two runs in the first inning against Dickey and the 28-year-old Wright tossed two scoreless innings and struck out three.

Dickey, currently the only pitcher in the major leagues who relies primarily on a knuckleball, is coming off a 20-victory season. The 38-year-old developed his knuckler late in his career and it is reputed to be atypically fast.

Wright also throws a fast knuckler. He is a special project for retired Boston star Tim Wakefield, who watched his student from a seat behind home plate Monday. "He throws a much faster ball than I did," Wakefield said after the game.

But this is February. Come April, Dickey will be the opening day starter for the Blue Jays and the inexperienced Wright will be pitching for Pawtucket in the International League.

Dickey is part of a Toronto spending spree that has turned a team with a 73-89 record in 2012 into a World Series contender. The Blue Jays are solid favorites to win the American League East, a division long dominated by the New York Yankees and Red Sox.

The Jays hiked their payroll 52 percent in the offseason from $75 million to $115 million when they added five All-Stars to their roster. However, they are still not close to either the Yanks or Bosox in total salaries.

My guess is the Canadians will get more bang for their bucks this season than either New York or Boston.

Toronto also has a new manager, John Gibbons, who replaced John Farrell, now with the Red Sox.

Farrell, who was booed Monday when his name was announced over the stadium PA system, has been the target of the Toronto media since he "wiggled his way out of his contract" last October. Actually, most were glad to see him go, since his two-season record of 154-170 wasn't exactly a step in a direction to the Hall of Fame.

Blue Jays fans who paid up to $23 for a seat Monday found another reason to dislike Farrell when he fielded a lineup with only two regulars. The Sox left their three stars -- Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury -- back in Fort Myers.

But this is par for the course in the early exhibition games. The home team plays its stars while the visitors get a look at the "wannabes."

Along about the sixth inning that gets kind of boring.

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