TODAY: The Padres have officially announced their selection of Waldron’s contract. To make room for Waldron on the active roster, left-hander Ray Kerr was optioned to Triple-A. Kerr had a 6.00 ERA and 5.77 FIP in six innings of work out of the San Diego bullpen, and now figures to serve as depth with El Paso going forward.
JUNE 23: The Padres will promote knuckleballer Matt Waldron to start tomorrow night’s game against the Nationals, the club informed reporters (including Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune). He’s not on the 40-man roster but San Diego has an opening after designating Nabil Crismatt for assignment on Tuesday. Michael Wacha had been slated to start the game. The Friars are skipping his outing due to some shoulder fatigue, tweets AJ Cassavell of MLB.com.
Waldron, a 26-year-old righty, entered the professional ranks as an 18th-round pick of the Indians back in 2019. Cleveland traded him to San Diego after the 2020 season as the player to be named later in the Mike Clevinger/Josh Naylor, Cal Quantrill blockbuster.
The University of Nebraska product has slowly progressed up the minor league ranks over the two and a half years since then. He reached Triple-A El Paso midway through last season and has spent all of 2023 there. He has a 7.02 ERA over 66 2/3 innings this year, starting 12 of 14 appearances.
That’s obviously not a strong run prevention mark, even in the context of the brutal Pacific Coast League setting for pitchers. Waldron ranks 27th among 38 PCL hurlers (minimum 40 innings) in ERA. He’s seventh among that group in strikeout rate, however, fanning just under a quarter of opponents. He has kept his walks to a manageable 7.8% clip, with the inflated ERA largely attributable to a batting average on balls in play just shy of .400.
It’s unclear if Waldron will get more than one start in his initial MLB look. Even if it’s a one-off appearance for now, it’ll mark both a major personal achievement and a win for fans of the knuckleball.
According to Statcast, there hasn’t been a single knuckleball thrown in the major leagues (outside of a few scattered eephus pitches from position players in mop-up duty) in either of the last two seasons. Mickey Jannis made one relief appearance for the Orioles in 2021; the last knuckleballer to pitch more than twice was Steven Wright back in 2019.