Mullen on the Minors: Sea Dogs' Wright settling in after 'crazy' deadline deal


Mullen on the Minors: Sea Dogs' Wright settling in after 'crazy' deadline deal

PAWTUCKET, R.I. This years trading deadline was unlike anything Steven Wright had experienced before.

After being taken by Cleveland in the second round of the 2006 draft out of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Wright had spent his career with the Indians until July 31. Just after the 4 p.m. trading deadline that day, though, it was announced that the Red Sox had acquired him, assigning him to Double-A Portland.

Wright was with Double-A Akron at Hadlock Field in Portland when he got the news.

It was nuts, Wright said. Because I was throwing my bullpen with Akron in Portland and then right when I got done Tony Arnold, our pitching coach, got a call. I saw his phone and it said Chris Tremie, which is our manager. And he talked to him for a couple of minutes and then told me I had to go to see the manager. He wouldnt let me do anything. I was supposed to run and condition and all that. He said, No, you cant. You got to go see him. So I walked in and he told me I got traded to Boston.

I talked to Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett and he told me they were sending me to Portland. So I packed my stuff up and walked across to their clubhouse. It was crazy because we still had to play the game that night. So I was sitting in the stands, charting for Portland against Akron. It was fun but it didnt hit me until Akron got on the bus and went to another city.

Then we went back to Akron the next week and I was in the other clubhouse. That was weird. I was still going through the same entrance that I always went through but just kept walking to the other clubhouse. I stayed in my apartment. So it was kind of crazy.

But now, Wright figures hes in the right organization for a knuckleball pitcher, a place where he could continue the legacy left after Tim Wakefields retirement. Although hes only been a full-time knuckleball pitcher for just two seasons, its a pitch hes been throwing since he was a kid.

I started throwing it when I was nine, he said. Frank Pastore, my old pitching coach, threw one back to me and I was just kind of intrigued with it, and I was watching Wakefield on TV. In 2010 I was struggling a little bit. I started in Triple-A, got sent back down to Double-A, and I needed an outpitch. And one day I jumped up on the mound, messing around, not even thinking anything of it, and just having fun. The coaches saw it, and were like you might want to start throwing that as an outpitch. So thats kind of where it started. I went into 2011, the same thing: fastball, slider, with my knuckleball as my outpitch. I had a good spring, they brought in former knuckleball pitcher Tom Candiotti to work with me.

He also had a chance to talk with Wakefield earlier this season. Former Red Sox coach Rob Leary, now the Indians minor league field coordinator, arranged a brief phone call between the two knuckleball pitchers.

After one start with Portland, Wright, who turns 28 on Aug. 30, was promoted on Aug. 8 to Triple-A Pawtucket, where Rich Sauveur, a former left-handed knuckleballer, is his pitching coach.

His is better than mine, Sauveur said. Even though mine was my main pitch, too. But Ill concede.

Wright has made just one start for the PawSox, going five innings, allowing two runs on five hits and walk with three strikeouts Aug. 11 at Rochester. He was placed on the seven-day disabled list on Aug.16 with right shoulder tightness, but is expected to be activated to start Friday at Charlotte.

He did a great job the first night, Sauveur said. Throws it somewhere between R.A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield velocity-wise. But its a good knuckleball, something to look for, because I think hes got some room to grow. Hes 27 but its pretty good stuff.

He gave up a couple runs early the other night and then he threw some zeros up, said Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler. He did a nice job. He throws strikes with it and guys swing at it. Typical knuckleball outing: five inns, deep counts, some crazy swings, a few hard hit balls when you get behind.

Sauveur has worked with other knuckleball pitchers in the organization, including Charlie Zink, when he was the International League pitcher of the year in 2008. Sauveur said Wrights knuckleball is better than Zinks.

Charlie had a decent knuckleball when he was here, Sauveur said. But looking at Wrights, its got a lot of movement. Im not saying hes a Tim Wakefield but you never know. And I can tell you hes got a chance.

A chance to help the big league team, Sauveur means.

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.