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On Baseball: As a Species, the Knuckleball Flutters but Survives

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Eddie Gamboa pitching for Mexico this month. Gamboa, 31, who can throw the knuckleball, is a nonroster invitee to the Tampa Bay Rays’ spring workouts.

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Yamil Lage/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Phil Niekro was a 21-year-old pitcher in Class A when his manager, Red Murff, gave him a compliment that propelled him to the Hall of Fame. If Niekro could control his knuckleball just a little better, Murff said, he would pitch in the big leagues.

That was in 1960. Niekro would pitch through 1987 and earn 318 victories.

“That’s what really got me going, and that’s what I’m trying to convince Eddie Gamboa,” Niekro said by telephone on Sunday. “It’s not a second or third pitch. It’s your pitch. Everything comes off your knuckleball, and he hasn’t gotten to that yet, I don’t think.”

Gamboa, 31, is a nonroster invitee of the Tampa Bay Rays who showed up Sunday at Charlotte Sports Park for the first day of…

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