Sports

Knuckleball at full force in Florida

The knuckleball fraternity was in full force for Monday’s game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox.

N.L. Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey gave up two runs and four hits in his Toronto spring training debut while fellow knuckleballer Steven Wright pitched two scoreless innings for a Boston split squad in a 4-2 win over the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla.

“You don’t see that too often,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said of seeing two starters tossing knuckleballs.

“That’s the first time I feel like I’ve started against another knuckleballer, and we’re real similar as far as speed,” Dickey said. “I think he threw some really good ones today. And if he stays on that path, and continues to throw strikes with it, I think he has a bright future with it.”

Wright, a minor leaguer, gave up two hits and struck out three. Former Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who is working with Wright, was at the game.

“Just a little nervous because you want to do your best in general, but to have guys with the keen eye for the knuckleball (watching),” Wright said. “But once I got out there I felt pretty good.”

Both pitchers seek advice from Wakefield. Dickey said he faced Wakefield a couple times as a reliever in games the former Red Sox standout started.

“He always has a good insight, so it’s good to get with him when I can, especially to see me pitch live,” Dickey said. “He can tell me if he sees something that’s out of whack or not.”

Weiner says increasing drug penalties possible

Baseball union head Michael Weiner says there’s active discussion about increasing the penalties for violating baseball’s drug testing program.

Weiner said players have expressed interest in making the sanctions for failed drug tests more severe. He also said there have been discussions with Major League Baseball about possible changes that could take place in 2014.

Under current rules, a player gets a 50-game suspension for a first offense when testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

MLB shuffles umpires after retirements

Major League Baseball has reshuffled its umpire roster for this season after the retirements of crew chiefs Ed Rapuano, Tim Tschida and Derryl Cousins.

Jim Joyce, Ted Barrett and Fieldin Culbreth have been promoted to crew chiefs. MLB also hired Vic Carapazza, Manny Gonzalez and Alan Porter as full-time staff members after they split time between the majors and minors in recent years.

The 47-year-old Barrett becomes the youngest crew chief in the majors. He is the only umpire to be the plate umpire in two perfect games.

Around the league

Dontrelle Willis left his Chicago debut because of a shoulder injury just seven pitches into his latest comeback try, and the L.A. Dodgers beat the mistake-prone Cubs 7-6. … Troy Tulowitzki had a two-run single and was involved in four flawless defensive plays in the Rockies’ 9-1 win over Texas in Scottsdale, Ariz. … Ian Kennedy has been selected as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ opening-day starter.



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