The Orioles' knuckleball project will continue in 2014.
The club has re-signed right-handed pitchers Eddie Gamboa and Zach Clark -- two pitchers who converted to knuckleballers last season in the Orioles' minor league system under the tutelage of Baseball Hall of Famer Phil Niekro -- to minor league deals, the team announced Tuesday.
Gamboa will receive an invitation to major league spring training, while Clark, who was in big league camp with the Orioles last season, will report to minor league camp this spring.
Both will continue to develop as knuckleball pitchers, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. Niekro will also be invited back to work with them, Duquette said.
Gamboa, 29, saw the opportunity as a chance to reinvent himself after five years in the minor leagues. He went 6-11 with a 4.43 ERA at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. He also threw a seven-inning no-hitter for Bowie on June 30 against Harrisburg.
In the Mexican Pacific League this winter, Gamboa was 3-4 with a 2.64 ERA in 11 starts. He was added to the Orioles’ 40-man roster in November, but the club non-tendered him two weeks later.
Clark, who played at UMBC, was on the team’s 40-man roster last spring and had a short major league stint in May. His time in the majors lasted just four days and he made one appearance, allowing three earned runs and three hits in 1 2/3 relief innings on May 1 in Seattle.
When he was sent back down to the minors, Clark started to primarily use the knuckleball, buying into the notion that after two shoulder surgeries and in his eighth season in the minors, it was worth trying something new.
Clark suffered a midseason hamstring injury, going 3-15 with a 7.84 ERA last year at four different minor league levels while trying to get a feel for the pitch. He became a free agent this offseason.
Duquette had Niekro in for spring training last year to work with another knuckleballer, Zach Staniewicz, when he saw promise from both Gamboa and Clark’s knucklers.
When Duquette was general manager of the Boston Red Sox, he first called upon Niekro to work with knuckleballer Tim Wakefield 17 years ago.
For more on Gamboa and Clark's transition to the knuckleball, click here.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun