Success has Squirrels reliever f lipping out
Acrobatic Knight is having his best season in minors
After a Flying Squirrels win earlier this summer that reliever Dusten Knight punctuated with a save, the right-hander celebrated with a backflip in front of the mound.
He wasn’t trying to show anyone up or anything like that — it’s just something he likes to do. He’ll even do backflips and frontflips while in the outfield to shag fly balls during batting practice.
“It’s just me, my way of showing that I love this game, I love to have fun, I love to come out here and just joke around,” Knight said.
Besides, Knight has had reason to flip this year. The 27-year-old, who is in his sixth year of minor league baseball, has compiled a 1.29 ERA over 22 games and 35 innings pitched this season. He’s also struck out 37.
Knight, who has pitched five games in rookie ball this year, four games in Triple-A and 13 with the Squirrels, believes this is the best year he’s had in the minors.
“Because I’ve been smarter as a pitcher,” he said. “I’ve been more aggressive as a pitcher.”
On Saturday at The Diamond, Knight pitched 1⅓ innings, with one unearned run allowed in the Flying Squirrels’ 5-2 win over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Richmond erased a 1-0 deficit in the sixth inning on RBI singles by John Polonius and John Riley.
Luigi Rodriguez, Dylan Davis and Matt Lipka had an RBI apiece as well.
Knight, a Tahlequah, Okla., native, pitched against Baltimore Oriole Dylan Bundy once in high school. And it was then that he realized that he might have a future in the game.
“Me and him had a good pitchers’ duel, and I remember the Texas Rangers scout comes up to me after the game and was like, ‘Hey man, you can really pitch. You got some good abilities. We’d like you to fill out a questionnaire, see how it goes from there,’ ” Knight said.
Knight began his collegiate career at Connors State, a junior college. He finished at the University of Texas-Pan American, before the Giants picked him in the 28th round of the 2013 draft.
At Texas-Pan American, Knight mostly started and had a 3.58 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 78 innings as a senior. The Giants moved him to the bullpen.
This year, Knight has seen his average velocity rise about 4 mph to a tad over 92 mph. He attributes that to more effective use of his legs.
“Because I’ve always been an arm thrower,” Knight said.
“Getting my legs involved, I think that’s been able to help me not only command wise, but [also] velocity.”
Knight said that some of the new staff the Giants have brought in this year, like rehab pitching coordinator Justin Lehr, have really helped him. Flying Squirrels pitching coach Glenn Dishman said Knight is great at selfcoaching as well.
“You bring up some stuff, and it clicks with him,” Dishman said. “He has a really good feel for what his body’s doing.”
As for the flipping, Dishman said, laughing, they try to discourage it. But he called Knight a “crazy good athlete.”
Whether he does it or not, Knight would like to have plenty more to flip for as the season winds down.
“I’m trying to finish stronger than I’ve ever finished in my life,” Knight said. “Because I’ve always had one or two games in August or in July where I was like, ‘I let that go.’ I don’t want that.”
Reliever Dusten Knight of the Flying Squirrels has put together a strong season, compiling a 1.29 ERA over 22 games and 35 innings. He’s also struck out 37.