In late November, it was revealed that the Cincinnati Reds and Alex Blandino had agreed to terms on a minor-league contract. At the time, of course, it was assumed that the Reds were looking at some depth for their roster in the event that one or more of the club's young infielders struggled during spring training.
As it turns out, Blandino and president of baseball operations Nick Krall had something cooking behind the scenes. It was revealed by Fernando Rayo of 8 Diportivo, and later confirmed by MLB Trade Rumors, that Blandino will be reporting to spring training, not as a position player, but as a pitcher.
This is one of the most intriguing stories ahead of the Reds' 2024 season. While Blandino will undoubtedly begin the season in the minors after being assigned to Double-A Chattanooga, Reds fans will be keeping close tabs on his progress throughout the 2024 campaign.
Former Reds infielder Alex Blandino attempting comeback as knuckleballer
While this latest revelation will come as a surprise to some, it's not shocking. Reds fans have seen Blandino toe the rubber before. Blandino made a relief appearance for Cincinnati during the 2018 season when he struck out two batters in a scoreless inning of work during his rookie season.
Blandino showed off his pitching repertoire on several occasions during the 2021 season. The right-hander stepped onto the mound during four games that season and recorded one punch out in 3.2 innings of work while also walking four batters and allowing four earned runs on four hits.
But the biggest nugget to takeaway from these latest reports is that Blandino will be looking to perfect the knuckleball upon his return to the Reds organization. For those unaware, few pitchers ever attempt to throw a knuckleball, as its movement is rather erratic and unpredictable.
The most recent knuckleballer to have prolonged success in the big leagues is R.A. Dickey. A Cy Young Award-winner in 2012, Dickey rose to prominence that year after learning how to throw a knuckleball. There are actually several knuckleballers in the Hall of Fame, including Phil Niekro and Hoyt Wilhelm.
The Cincinnati Reds have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain with this attempted transformation. Alex Blandino was originally drafted by the Reds in the first round in 2014 and has bounced around to a few different organizations over the years.
Blandino's biggest claim to fame throughout his major league career might be outlasting Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Luis Oviedo during their National Anthem stand-off in 2021. Transitioning from an infielder to a knuckleballer would certainly top that feat.