Knuckler in top form, Wright rolls on

Even catcher Hanigan occasionally has tough time with righty's pitches

Knuckler in top form, Wright rolls on

BOSTON -- Steven Wright's knuckleball was as elusive to Red Sox catcher Ryan Hanigan as it was to the hitters who were flummoxed throughout a dominant, seven-inning performance Wednesday night.

In a 9-4 victory over the Braves, Wright's knuckler fluttered away from bat barrels all night. There were also quite a few occasions when Hanigan's oversized mitt that he uses only to catch Wright wasn't quite big enough.

Hanigan had four passed balls, but it didn't really matter. The way Wright was pitching, there wasn't a whole lot of action on the basepaths.

"I was throwing it into the wind today, so with the wind blowing out like that, it kind of makes it move a little more than normal," Wright said. "Hanny did a heck of a job snagging them. Some of them I thought were going by him, but he was able to knock them down. Got to give lot of credit to Hanny. We were on the same page all night."

Hanigan felt a combination of satisfaction and relief after guiding Wright through the performance.

"Every time I catch it, it's a small victory," Hanigan said. "I'll tell you what, some days it's more consistent in the way it moves. Some days it's darting left and right and all over. This was one of those nights."

The only person who could truly see what Hanigan was seeing was home-plate umpire Kerwin Danley. And the two of them had some laughs during the game.

"I was talking to the umpire back there about how much it was moving," Hanigan said. "It was going left, right, uptown. It's always a battle, but he pitched well, and we got a win."

Wright (2-2, 1.37 ERA) has been a rock early in the season, going at least six innings and allowing two earned runs or fewer in all four of his starts.

"Yeah, the roll he's on has been great for us," Hanigan said. "He's chewing up innings, getting outs. He's been real efficient and saving our 'pen; it's the whole deal."

Over his seven innings, Wright allowed three hits and one earned run while striking out eight.

"For him to throw a knuckleball like that, you see the swings these guys are taking," Hanigan said. "They might have hit one ball hard tonight. Even their hits were fisted. It's dancing. It's nasty."

When Spring Training started, Wright was projected to be a long reliever for the Red Sox. But when lefty Eduardo Rodriguez suffered a right knee injury, a spot in the rotation opened up, and Wright pounced.

Joe Kelly is now also on the disabled list, so Wright's spot is secure, at least a while longer. Then again, if Wright keeps pitching like he is, it's hard to imagine he will come out of the rotation.

"My job is just to throw pitches," Wright said. "Whatever happens when Eddie comes back, I'll be ready for it. I'm going to support the decision that the team makes, and I'm going to go out there and try to make every pitch count."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.