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Dana Eveland returns

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Eveland back with Rays after learning knuckleball in Tibetan Monasterial League

Tampa Bay Rays Photo Day Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

It appeared that our long national nightmare had finally come to an end when the Rays cut ties to Dana Eveland in mid-March. Instead, he has been reborn. This time, as an ascetic knuckleballer.

This story has more twists than 55 mph Niekro special. As all our readers know, Eveland was awful last year, posting a 9.00 ERA and a 5.89 FIP over 33 games and 23 innings, while striking out 21 and walking 19 (!). He also hit three guys. He was a mess, is what I’m saying. And yet, every time it looked like it was over, the Rays brought him back. Because “extra two percent” “spin rate” yada yada yada.

After cutting him once again in the offseason, they brought him back a fourth time this spring, on a minor league deal. But things did not go smoothly, and when Eveland was handed his walking papers once again, it looked for all the world like it was finally the end of the line for the Great Dana.

Now a free agent, but with few suitors, the 33 year old was at a crossroads in his life. Then he remembered a conversation he had last July with staff guru, Chris Archer.

“I’d been reading some Deepak Chopra at the time,” Archer recalled, “And I got to talking to Evie about Āyurveda, which is life knowledge, and especially this quote about existence is in the midst of total acceptance of possibilities. And I really thought that was something he could tap into with his slider.”

Eveland didn’t act on Archer’s counsel at the time, but the thought stayed with him. And now that he was newly unemployed, he did what any moderately wealthy, looking-for-the-meaning-of-life middle-aged middle reliever would do: he went to China to study from the Masters.

He landed at Dreprug monastery in Lhasa, Tibet. Known most widely as the home of the Dalai Lama (a twenty-third round draft pick of the Astros in 1994), it is also where former big league prospect Sidd Finch learned his yoga, and hosts the most active intramural baseball league in the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China.

It is here, quite accidentally, that Eveland learned the knuckler.

“I actually wasn’t going to play on the baseball team. I wanted to leave that part of my life behind. They had me doing, you know, manual labor stuff, trying to get my training started. So we were picking these mangoes, me and this other guy, and he’s talking to me about breathing, and it’s not making a lot of sense to me. But all of sudden, he starts getting really excited. He says there’s no spin on the mangoes when I toss them to him.

“At first, I’m not sure what he’s talking about. I think he’s being all metaphysical or something. But, no, he’s actually talking about the mangoes, like, not spinning in the air when I throw them. And I’m not soft-tossing either.

“So he backs up, and I try to do it again, but I can’t. Over and over, can’t do it. Finally, we gave up and started going back to stacking the mangoes. Then all of a sudden, out of the blue, he just, like, yells at me, right? Scared the ever-living crap out of me. And on instinct, I fire a pieced of fruit at him. And guess what? Perfect knuckle-mango. Turns out, the secret was in not thinking about not spinning it.”

Eveland shakes his head at the memory.

“We spent a week working on it, till I could throw the knuckler when I wanted to without thinking about the fact that I was throwing it. All very Zen. Then I went and joined the baseball team. Threw back-to-back no-hitters on back-to-back days. Called my agent the next day, he called the Rays, and here I am.”

The Rays intend to assign Eveland to Class AA Montgomery at first and see how things play out. But Matt Silverman’s interest is piqued.

“It is odd that a guy we initially brought in because we liked his high spin rate, we’re bringing back because he’s not spinning it at all now. But, well, you can’t predict baseball,” Silverman said. “Plus, we’re broke, so what else are you gonna do?”

When asked if he he learned anything else from the experience besides the knuckleball, Eveland answers without hesitation.

“Yeah. There’s a lot of misconceptions about Eastern religion. Breathe through your eyelids, that kind of thing. But that’s all bullshit. It’s really about being present. Or maybe it’s being not-absent. Plus, you’re actually breathing through your fingers, not your eyelids. Or something like that. What the hell do I know? I was only there for two weeks.”

Asked if he intends to go back to Tibet should the knuckleball pitcher thing not work out, Eveland is more introspective.

“Nah. I’m actually thinking about getting into coaching. In fact, I’ve already started talking with some of the guys. I’ve got some interesting prospects.” Here the big lefty winks: “I mean, can you imagine Chris Archer with a knuckleball?”

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This is an April Fools article. Thanks for reading DRaysBay.