Blue Jays add rare lefty knuckleballer to staff

Feierabend picks up rain-shortened loss in 1st MLB start since 2008

May 18th, 2019

TORONTO -- Ryan Feierabend made history Saturday afternoon by becoming the first left-handed knuckleballer to take the mound for the Blue Jays.

Feierabend allowed four runs on seven hits and a walk in a rain-shortened 4-1 loss to the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. The game was called midway through the fifth inning because of rain after a three-hour delay, but it still goes down as an official loss because the Blue Jays, as the road team, were trailing and had an opportunity hit in five innings.

The 33-year-old Feierabend joined the Blue Jays on a Minor League contract during Spring Training. He made three starts for Triple-A Buffalo prior to his arrival, posting a 2.70 ERA. A rash of injuries to Toronto’s starting staff meant the club no longer had Ryan Borucki, Clayton Richard, Clay Buchholz and Matt Shoemaker at its disposal, creating an unexpected opportunity for Feierabend.

“Injuries stink. You never want to see your teammates go down with injuries,” said Feierabend, who technically earned the first complete game of his career. “But for me, being a veteran player, I think it’s all about keeping after it. Keeping after the grind and hoping there are more opportunities ahead.”

Feierabend throws a lot more pitches than just that one specialty pitch, so he's not a traditional knuckleballer, and that's pretty rare for lefties. Kirt Ojala (1997-99) and Rich Sauveur (1986-2000) were some of the most recent lefty knucklers, as was Danny Boone (final game: 1990). But there was also Wilbur Wood (164-game winner) from 1961-78, Gene Bearden (1947-53), Mickey Haefner (1943-50) and Lou Sleater (1950-58).

This marked Feierabend's first appearance in the Major Leagues since 2014 when he made six appearances out of the bullpen for the Rangers. Feierabend received a harsh welcome to the Blue Jays when Chicago's Leury Garcia led off Saturday's game with a solo home run to left. He then allowed a pair of RBI singles in the second and another RBI single in the third. He did not receive an opportunity to come back out for the fifth because of the weather.

Right-hander Javy Guerra was designated for assignment to make room for Feierabend on the 25-man roster. Guerra tossed three scoreless during Friday night's 10-2 victory over the White Sox and his departure was simply the result of Toronto desperately needing a fresh arm.

Feierabend went 8-8 with a 4.30 ERA last season while playing for the KT Wiz in the Korean Baseball Organization. The veteran lefty had spent the last four years in the KBO, following 11 seasons in the Minors with the Mariners, Phillies, Reds and Rangers' organizations.

The last start that Feierabend made in the Major Leagues came all the way back on Sept. 23, 2008, when he was a member of the Mariners. The 10 years and 236 days between starts is the ninth-longest span in Major League history, according to STATS.

Seattle was playing against the Angels in the aforementioned start, which meant Feierabend was matched up against Vladimir Guerrero Sr. For Feierabend's Blue Jays debut, Guerrero Jr. was behind him defensively at third base.

“It’s kind of crazy,” Feierabend said. “I actually had this conversation with the guys in Spring Training. Not only Guerrero, but I played against Cavan Biggio’s dad [Craig], Kacy Clemens’ dad [Roger] at one point or another. To have these guys here is great. They’re great ballplayers and hopefully it’s for a few more years too.”