Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Knuckleball Whiz Charlie Haeger to Start for W.Sox

Charlie Haeger, 23, a knuckleballing rookie with a 3-0 record and 0.68 ERA for AAA Charlotte, has been named as the surprise callup to start against the Angels tonight as a replacement for injured Jose Contreras. Haeger was chosen over highly regarded future starter Brandon McCarthy, whom manager Ozzie Guillen said should stay in the pen because his arm has not been "stretched out." Had Haeger not been brilliant so far this year, the White Sox could have called upon McCarthy but would have limited him to a 60-70 pitch count. Haeger has an opportunity to win at least one more start before Contreras' return from the DL, but there was no certainty he could avoid being returned to North Carolina. However, Haeger has the team's attention, having gone 8-2 last year with a 3.25 ERA for A Winston-Salem, and 6-3 with a 3.73 ERA for AA Birmingham. Haeger developed his knuckler only two years ago. Until this year, Haeger occasionally struggled to control it, but can come back with a reliable if not spectacular mid-80s fastball when needed. The team thought enough of Haeger to protect him on the 40-man roster.