We've been active on the waiver wire in the past 48 hours as we've claimed two right-handed pitchers: Charlie Haeger from the Chicago White Sox and Scott Patterson from the New York Yankees.
Charlie is a young (24) knuckleballer who was originally drafted as a more conventional pitcher by the White Sox in the 25th round in 2001. After pitching two seasons, Charlie went on the voluntary retired list for all of the 2003 season. I believe the history is that Charlie decided to come back in 2004 armed with a new weapon - the knuckler. He then moved quickly through the ranks, reaching both AAA and the Major Leagues in 2006. Over the past three seasons Charlie has amassed nearly 500 innings in AAA with a 3.87 ERA and an additional 30 innings in the big leagues with a 4.85 ERA.
Quite frankly, this is a situation where fit matters. As is the case with most knuckleballers, Charlie can walk some hitters, and he can give up some fly balls. That's not a great combo in the American League, particularly in US Cellular in Chicago, but it's more palatable in our environment. Kevin Towers has said in the past that he's been intrigued with the idea of a knuckleballer in our park given the coastal weather conditions and the spacious outfield. In a more general sense, knuckleballers can also create some flexibility within a pitching staff due to their ability to pitch often and in a variety of roles.
Scott Patterson (29 years old) has taken an equally interesting path to the Major Leagues. The West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference pitcher of the year in 2002, Scott went undrafted and signed with the Gateway Grizzlies in the Frontier League. After a few successful seasons as a starter, an invitation to the Seattle Mariners minor league spring training, and a move to the pen, Scott really blossomed. In June of 2006 the Yankees signed Scott away from the independent leagues and sent him straight to AA Trenton. Over the next year and half Scott pitched 113 innings, allowed 71 hits and 23 walks while striking out 135 hitters. His performance enticed the Yankees to add him to the 40-man roster last winter.
2008 marked the first season that Scott began at the AAA level, and he broke through to the Majors pitching one inning for the Yankees. Despite battling pneumonia in the middle of the season, Scott's AAA totals over the past year plus are: 50 innings, 47 hits, 13 walks, and 55 strikeouts. A 6'6", 230 lb man, Scott has a deceptive delivery that has proven to give hitters all kinds of problems. Another flyball pitcher, Scott should be a good fit for Petco Park. Scouts Rich Bordi and Van Smith both have written positive reports on him, and we're excited to add him to our bullpen mix.
In addition to getting a chance to play all of our young players this September, the only other consolation to being in our current position is that it allows us to be aggressive on the waiver wire (we're near the front of the line). We plan to use that to our advantage, and we think both Charlie and Scott have a chance to help the Major League club going forward.