Sportress of Blogitude

Brian Wilson on if his knuckleball is a gimmick: ‘I never [expletive] around’


Brian Wilson caused a minor stir when his first pitch of spring training was a knuckleball. Most folks suspected that the colorful and eccentric relief pitcher was merely goofing off, having some fun. You know, being Brian Wilson.

Apparently, that’s not the case.

In a fascinating interview with Fangraphs’ Eno Sarris, Wilson insists that the knuckleball isn’t a gimmick at all. Wilson shot down any notion of tomfoolery when asked if he was just screwing around.

“I never [expletive] around, it’s an out pitch,” Wilson insisted to Sarris.

The Los Angeles Dodgers reliever, still rocking the most magnificent beard in all of sport, claims he fully intends to use the pitch this season, has no qualms in doing so and is unafraid to offer it up should the moment present itself.

“Why would you be scared? I don’t understand,” said Wilson. “I’ve seen a lot of lot of home runs on 100 mph fastballs and a lot of people think that’s the best pitch on earth, I’ve seen Mariano [Rivera] give up runs and he’s got arguably the best pitch in the history of baseball.”

Wilson, 31, while not the dominant pitcher he once was when he was mowing down batters and shutting down games as the closer for the San Francisco Giants, appears to have resurrected his career with the Dodgers. After an injury-plagued season in 2011, Wilson’s 2012 campaign was drastically cut short when he injured his elbow in an April 12 game. He was shut down for the season and underwent Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career on April 19.

The Dodgers signed the pitcher on July 30, 2013, Wilson began a minor league rehab assignment and was called up to the big leagues on Aug. 19. He appeared in 18 games, going 2-1 with a miniscule 0.66 ERA. The comeback was on.

And now, Wilson is working on a knuckler. Given his age and repeated surgeries, it makes sense that Wilson may want to incorporate a knuckleball, a pitch that doesn’t strain the arm like a cutter or a slider, into his pitching repertoire.

Wilson said that being in peak physical form is great, but if you don’t have it going on between the ears, a pitcher has virtually no chance of success anyway.

“Most of the time you fail, you had fear,” Wilson says, talking about what goes into baseball. “I don’t know the percentage of preparation, skillset, training, diet, mindset. But I do know that you have to have a brain in order to pitch — you can do all the other stuff physically, but if you don’t have determination behind it, then all the mechanical stuff goes out the window.”