Tucson Padres: Bonine tries to knuckle down

2013-04-26T00:00:00Z Tucson Padres: Bonine tries to knuckle downDaniel Gaona Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 26, 2013 12:00 am  • 

When Pat Murphy was at Arizona State, he recruited a Glendale Community College pitcher named Eddie Bonine.

Murphy, now the manager for the Tucson Padres, liked Bonine's fierce competitiveness and pitching potential. He wanted him to be a Sun Devil - bad - but never got him.

Now he does.

Bonine, 31, was signed by San Diego last Friday, the day he was released by the Diamondbacks organization. On Tuesday, he was sent to Triple-A Tucson.

"He talked to me during spring training with the Diamondbacks," Murphy said before Tucson lost to Colorado Springs 13-5 on Thursday night at Kino Stadium. "We hadn't seen each other for years and we had a nice conversation. It's just ironic that, a month later, he's with us."

Murphy said the organization is impressed by Bonine's up-and-coming hard knuckleball. The Padres essentially see him as the next R.A. Dickey.

Bonine compares his pitch to Dickey's because of its speed -most knuckleballs flutter, while Bonine throws harder - and said he's likely going to study up on the Blue Jays ace's film.

However, Bonine won't be filing his nails anytime soon. He doesn't dig into the ball like Dickey; instead he uses his fingertips.

Bonine was born in Georgia but grew up in the Phoenix area and attended Glendale Mountain Ridge High School. The Padres drafted him in 2003. He made his major-league debut with the Tigers in 2008. In 62 big-league appearances, Bonine has gone 7-3 with a 4.74 ERA.

"It's nice being back in Arizona and it's definitely nice being back with the Padres," Bonine said.

Bonine has thrown a hard knuckleball since he was in junior college, and threw the pitch during his first stint in San Diego's organization.

Now, the Padres want to see him perfect it.

"They wanted me to go that route," Bonine said. "They feel there's a future in that and it was going to be a little bit of a transition process figuring out a routine that works for me with that pitch and getting that rhythm down that it takes to throw it."

Tuesday's start at Fresno, his debut with Tucson, was the first time Bonine threw around 75 percent knuckleballs. He gave up six hits and two earned runs in three innings for the loss.

"I threw some good ones and threw some bad ones and I think that's going to be part of the process," Bonine said. "To try to throw a ball in the strike zone with no rotation, there's a lot of things you have to fit together that's going to lead to that end result being good."

Murphy agreed that the knuckleball is easily one of the hardest pitches to throw, especially consistently, but he believes Bonine has the potential to master the pitch.

Bonine is hoping that his best is still to come.

"With the organization behind me as far as pushing to go that route hopefully it's going to be that next chapter in my career, Bonine said. "Hopefully it prolongs it a little ways."

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