DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The opposing pitcher, R.A. Dickey -- also a knuckleballer by trade -- is the reigning Cy Young Award winner. Watching from a booth in the press box was Tim Wakefield, another knuckleballer, and one who had won 200 games over his 19-year career.
The manager, John Farrell, said he had come to this game -- and not a shorter trip to Port Charlotte, where another squad of Red Sox players were Monday -- primarily to watch him.
So, yes, Steven Wright was a little self-conscious for his first start in a Red Sox uniform.
"A little nervous,'' acknowledged Wright after the Sox beat Toronto, 4-2, Monday in an exhibition game. "Not scared, just a little nervous because you want to do your best in general (in front) of guys with a keen eye for the knuckleball. But once I got out there, I felt pretty good.''
It showed. In two scoreless innings, he allowed two hits and struck out three.
"I felt good,'' said Wright. "I was a little antsy at first, but I felt like I was able to get things in order and compete.''
Wright met with Wakefield for the first time in the clubhouse Monday morning and it didn't take long for the veteran to offer some advice . . . or for Wright to implement it.
"The biggest adjustment was to move over a little bit to the first base side of the rubber,'' said Wright, "which allows my hand to stand in the window a little bit longer and toward the center of home plate. [He also suggested] to lead with my front foot. Those two small adjustments, I felt, made a huge impact on my feel for the pitcher and ability to keep it in the strike zone.''
Wright said Wakefield's presence "makes me feel honored, to be honest. For the Red Sox to reach out to him was awesome. When I met with [general manager] Ben [Cherington], he said, 'Anything we can do . . . ' which makes me want to work even harder. I feel like with the resources they've given me, I'm going to take full advantage in using them.''
There isn't a spot available in the Red Sox rotation for now, but Wright could make himself the No. 1 depth option at Pawtucket and be first in line should there be injury or performance issues.
"I hope so,'' said Wright. "That's the goal -- to go out and just compete and if the time comes and I get the opportunity, I'm just going to try to take advantage of it.''
It helps, said Wright, to be in an organization that was home to another knuckleballer for 17 years.
"They understand how hard it is,'' said Wright. "It's a hard pitch to throw. They're giving me all the resources they can.''
On Wednesday, Wakefield will oversee Wright's side session and work on varying the speed on the knuckler.
"We're going to try to get some consistency so I don't telegraph it,'' said Wright. "I think when I do it now, you can see it pretty early. So the idea is to keep it like a changeup, where you telegraph it, where it looks like it's coming in at a normal speed, but it's 10 mph slower.''