The Houston Astros might have discovered a new market inefficiency in Major League Baseball: Broadcasters who also can throw special pitches in batting practice.
For the second consecutive season, radio analyst and former major leaguer Steve Sparks tossed knuckleballs to the Astros in batting practice before their lineup faced Toronto Blue Jays right-hander R.A. Dickey. Coincidentally or not, the Astros scored five runs on six hits against the knuckleballing Dickey, including a pair of home runs, in a 6-4 victory at Rogers Centre on Thursday night.
Jonathan Villar (in the video) and Robbie Grossman (down in the photo) each homered against Dickey.
Dickey had similar problems against the Astros in 2013, too. A season ago, the Astros touched him up for five runs and seven hits after being peppered by Sparks during pregame. Sparks pitched nine seasons in the majors with five teams, mostly the Detroit Tigers, posting a 4.88 ERA and 16 complete games. He has not pitched in the majors since 2004.
The Astros really might be onto something here, via MLB.com:
[M]anager Bo Porter said his players appreciated it.
"Anytime you are facing a knuckleballer and you have the opportunity for someone to throw knuckleballs to you in pregame you should take advantage of it," Porter said.
Well, OK, then. The Rays ought to hire Charlie Hough, and the Red Sox need to get Tim Wakefield out of the NESN studio and into Fenway the next time the Blue Jays are in Boston.
The other thing Sparks is known for, of course, is tearing up his left (non-throwing) shoulder by trying to rip a phone book in half during spring training in 1994. The trick always had worked before without that happening, Sparks swears. Regardless, he was able to have a long major league career, and now one in broadcasting with some batting practice pitching on the side.
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