The Blue Jays already have one knuckleballer with 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and it sounds like they are about to add another one to the mix.
Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports that the Blue Jays have reached a verbal agreement on a minor league contract with Tomo Ohka, who has reinvented himself as a knuckleballer since he last appeared in the majors in 2009. The expectation is that he’ll begin the year with Double-A New Hampshire.
Ohka, now 37, had a 4.26 ERA over 10 seasons in the majors from 1999-2009 while making stops with the Red Sox, Expos, Nationals, Brewers, Blue Jays and Indians. He returned to Japan to pitch for the Yokohama Bay Stars from 2010-2011 before requiring shoulder surgery. MLB Trade Rumors relayed a story from NikkanSports.com last month that Ohka has been developing his knuckler ever since and came to the United States in October to begin training.
If Ohka is going to make a comeback as a knuckleballer, he might as well be as close to Dickey as possible. It should be a fun story to monitor in 2014.
The Tigers signed catcher Josh Thole to a minor league deal, per an announcement from the Double-A Erie SeaWolves on Friday. Thole is expected to report to Double-A Erie, where he’ll split time with starting catcher Jake Rogers.
Thole, 31, has not appeared in a major or minor league game since 2016. He signed a minors deal with the Diamondbacks back in 2017, but was sidelined through most of the season after undergoing hamstring surgery in April. He was released by the team during spring training and failed to catch on with another major league club through the first two months of the 2018 season.
While the veteran backstop hasn’t tested his skills in pro ball for several years now, he held his own during a short-lived run with the independent New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League. Over 17 games in 2018, Thole batted .317/.425/.367 with three extra-base hits and a .791 OPS in 75 plate appearances. He’s expected to serve as catching depth within the Tigers’ organization, but may yet work his way back to the majors if he can get his average back over the Mendoza Line again — a feat he hasn’t managed since 2015.