The real reason the Jays signed Tomo Ohka

Just two days ago the Jays made another signing, although it was of a 37-year old Japanese relief pitcher Tomo Ohka. Why would the Blue Jays be interested in going after a beaten up commodity that is likely reaching the end of his career? One reason and one only: the knuckleball. Following a tough shoulder surgery that sidelined Ohka for quite some time, he has yet to pitch again in the big leagues since 2009. In fact the Jays had him as a relief pitcher prior to his knuckleballing ways, in 2007 when he went 2-5 with a 5.79 ERA.

Since the recent surgery, Ohka has reportedly been learning command of the knuckleball, a rarity seen in the sport of baseball. In recent years only two players have successfully mastered the pitch, having successful big league careers, those players are Tim Wakefield (now retired) and current Jays SP RA Dickey. The Jays have signed Ohka now, because they have Josh Thole who is able to catch the Knuckler (as well as Canadian Catcher Mike Nikeas) and the game’s best with that pitch, Dickey.

The school of thought with this move is that the Jays have nothing to lose with this signing and it may help to infuse the minor and major league level with potential pitchers down the line that may be able to learn this fantastic pitch and lead to a new generation of knucklers in the Jays farm systems. It will also help Catchers and Jays training staff to better understand this pitch and be able to teach the handling of it.

Anthopolous has suggested that Ohka will likely open up the season at AA-New Hampshire and will probably be called up at some point this season to help with the big league club in a limited role. Alex hopes that Toronto may be able to revitalize his career here, and that with the knuckleball he may be able to extend it, as the KB pitch places less strain on the muscles when thrown repeatedly than conventional pitches such as the FB, CB etc.

 

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