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Danny Worth breaks out the knuckleball in scoreless inning of work

May 22, 2014, 9:51 PM EDT

Danny Worth Getty Getty Images

The Tigers’ bullpen was stretched thin today after starter Robbie Ray lasted just 3 1/3 innings against the Rangers, so position player Danny Worth got a chance to make his first career relief appearance. He was awesome.

Worth showed off a surprisingly good knuckleball in a scoreless inning of work. After allowing a leadoff single to Chris Gimenez, he struck out Michael Choice swinging before getting Luis Sardinas to line out and Leonys Martin looking on a called third strike to end the frame. Matt Slovin of MLB.com notes that Worth is the first Tigers’ position player to pitch a full inning since Willie Smith did it on September 25, 1963.

Check it out below:

It looks like Worth has a pretty good backup plan if his career as a position player fizzles out.

  1. bostonfrogs - May 22, 2014 at 10:05 PM

    He may very well have better luck trying to replace Benoit as set-up man than playing shortstop every day at the MLB level.

  2. racksie - May 22, 2014 at 10:34 PM

    I was lucky enough to see this. The Tigers bench was enjoying this as much as I was. He strikes the first guy out and they threw the ball back to the dugout. And the hitters were flailing at what appeared to be optical illusions. The knuckle ball combined with ephus pitch speed made the guy almost unhittable. Very fun to watch.

    • apkyletexas - May 22, 2014 at 11:22 PM

      This is how Tim Wakefield got his start as a knuckleball pitcher years ago. He was a first base prospect in the Pirates’ system, but coaches told him he’d never make it to the big leagues so he started working on a knuckle ball. Twenty years later he ended his career as the 3rd winningest pitcher in Red Sox history, behind only Clemens and Cy Young.

      • kcroyal - May 22, 2014 at 11:49 PM

        I loved me some Tim Wakefield growing up, don’t get me wrong. But as long as we are using such an obviously useless stat like pitcher wins to prove a point, could you also add that Wakefield is the all time Red Sox leader in losses, by 56. One player had like 170 career WAR, and another had like 35 career WAR. Let’s not pretend something silly like pitcher wins on a specific team makes them comparable at all. That’s like comparing Mike Florio to Joe Posnanski.

      • apkyletexas - May 23, 2014 at 1:40 AM

        So you’re saying he sucked? Or was he so good at chewing up innings for such an enormous number of years that he was bound to set a losses record for the team. Seems to me the only stat stupider than pitcher wins is pitcher losses for a twenty year pitcher with two World series rings on a club that hadn’t won a title for almost 80 years by the time he got there.

      • dan1111 - May 23, 2014 at 2:56 AM

        @kcroyal, Wakefield had a long, successful major league career. The number of wins he had for the Sox demonstrates that. It is not supposed to be a claim about his value compared to Clemens or Cy Young.

      • Bryz - May 23, 2014 at 8:24 AM

        kcroyal, seriously, chill out.

        And if you’re going to go on a rant like that, why not mention that Cy Young is also the major league leader in losses as well, or do you just hate Tim Wakefield?

      • grumpyoleman - May 23, 2014 at 8:54 AM

        He probably doesn’t hate Wakefield he is just one of the idiots that think wins mean absolutely nothing.

  3. hammyofdoom - May 22, 2014 at 10:55 PM

    It’s amazing that we have so few knuckleballers in the majors, yet a position player can whip this out of his back pocket. Amazing job and good for him, made me grin like a fool to see him pitch like that

    • racksie - May 22, 2014 at 11:46 PM

      I have seen quite a few position players pitch, but this was by far the most fun. The MLB coverage made it great because the HD slow mo replays of that 69 MPH knuckler were really cool. And he got a standing ovation finishing out a seven run loss. Good stuff.

  4. thetoolsofignorance - May 22, 2014 at 11:08 PM

    Verlander’s reaction to it all was easily the best. he was beyond happy to see that knuckler.

    • racksie - May 22, 2014 at 11:42 PM

      I fully expect to see Verlander and Worth talking pregame tomorrow, and Verlander listening intently as Worth shows him how to grip a knuckleball. Yep, watch out AL hitters. Verlander is going to learn a knuckleball, and pretty much screw with your heads for another ten years.

      • thetoolsofignorance - May 23, 2014 at 12:24 AM

        I for one welcome our new knuckle ball overlords

  5. pwshrugged - May 23, 2014 at 8:00 AM

    Aww, I stopped watching in the 5th or 6th to get dinner started, and missed this. Few things are as fun as watching a position player pitch, sometimes.

    That said, having seen the whole inning now – wow. That’s a really legit knuckler Worth was throwing. Sure, the hitters weren’t prepared for it at all, but still – if he has even a decent fastball to go with it, there’s some potential there. I came away surprisingly impressed.

    It was also good to see the Tigers put him out there to get both the bench and the crowd fired up some. Good for that.

  6. 2077james - May 23, 2014 at 8:21 AM

    Does he hide a grin there after the first strikeout? Probably heard Verlanders reaction. Very entertaining.

  7. grumpyoleman - May 23, 2014 at 8:56 AM

    Worth and Coke should swap positions. Coke can’t pitch and Worth can’t hit so it wouldn’t hurt any.

  8. deepstblu - May 23, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    Wonderful Willie Smith appeared in 17 games for the 1963 Tigers, 11 of them as a pitcher. Although he ultimately settled in as an outfielder, in ’63 he wasn’t really a position player temping on the mound.

  9. mazblast - May 26, 2014 at 1:25 AM

    My favorite was watching futility infielder Wilson Valdes pitch for the Phils against the Reds a few years back in something like the 17th inning, throwing an 85 mph fastball with pretty good movement. He wound up getting the win–and a lot of grief the next year when he played FOR the Reds.

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