TORONTO - The old saying "It's a marathon, not a sprint" applies to baseball more than any other sport. Clubs play 162 games in, give or take, 180 days. There is little time to decompress and even less to dwell on the most recent loss.
Understanding that one game - despite the pomp and circumstance of the annual opening day event - offers nary a sample size with which to work, three items emerged from the Blue Jays' 4-1 loss to Cleveland that are worth watching.
ARENCIBIA'S STRUGGLE WITH DICKEY'S KNUCKLEBALL
Before the game was three innings old, J.P. Arencibia had been charged with three passed balls; in the fourth another knuckleball bounced past Arencibia for Dickey's only wild pitch of the evening.
"If you talk to any knuckleball catcher, guys who've caught the knuckleball, it's going to happen," said Arencibia. "I think early, too, I was a little bit straight up with (Dickey) and once I made a turn in my stance I kind of adjusted to him a little bit better and (the knuckleball) was more consistent in the zone."
Dickey first threw off the Rogers Centre mound on Sunday, wanting to get acclimated to his new surroundings in a quieter environment. He liked the way his knuckleball reacted inside the climate-controlled dome and felt he had good movement on Tuesday, citing the limited number of hard hit balls the Indians could muster.
"It's a tough thing to do for anybody, even the guys who are really good at it," said Dickey of catching a knuckleball. "J.P.'s still learning, he's still learning and has great aptitude and a willingness to learn and I'm sure he'll identify whatever it was that inhibited him tonight and fix it. Sometimes you throw a good knuckleball, nobody's catching it, that's just the way it is but those happen once every couple of games."
Asked if Arencibia would continue to catch Dickey, manager John Gibbons wouldn't stray from the plan set out in Dunedin.
"Yeah, I mean I don't see why not," said Gibbons. "Anytime you're catching a knuckleball, I don't care who it is, you're going to miss some balls. It wasn't an easy night, his first go around in a game that counted. I've seen knuckleballers in the past, they've got their own personal catchers and there are balls they miss too. I'm not ready to blame that loss on J.P. back there; they'll both catch (Dickey.")
Dickey's next start is Sunday, at Rogers Centre, against the Boston Red Sox. Henry Blanco, 41, is Gibbons' other option to catch Dickey. Blanco and Dickey worked seven games together in 2010 while teammates with the New York Mets.
BRETT LAWRIE'S ABSENCE BEING FELT
Maicer Izturis' seventh inning error aside – it didn't lead to a Cleveland run – the absence of Brett Lawrie from the middle of the batting order created a glaring hole.
Toronto's fifth through eighth hitters – in order Adam Lind, Arencibia, Colby Rasmus and Izturis – combined to go 1-14 with a walk. The only hit was an Arencibia two-out, bases empty double in the ninth; Rasmus walked in the second.
"He's a big part of the team," said Gibbons. "He's a key guy on this team and there aren't many defenders at this stage of his career around at third base … There's no question, we get him back, we're pretty solid down there."
Don't expect Lawrie to return to the lineup for at least two weeks.
The 23-year-old strained a ribcage muscle in a tune up game for the World Baseball Classic on March 6. He resumed throwing on Monday after suffering a setback and shutting down baseball activities during the last week of spring training.
COLBY RASMUS LOOKING TO REBOUND
Rasmus, who hit seventh, struck out in his final three plate appearances.
While he did walk 13 times during Grapefruit League action, the 26-year-old struck out 18 times in 47 spring training at-bats.
Rasmus is trying to recapture last season's first half form when he hit 17 home runs and was on pace for 100 RBI. A challenging second half saw Rasmus hit just .176 with six home runs.
The Blue Jays play the second game of their season-opening three-game series with Cleveland.
Right-hander Brandon Morrow (10-7, 2.96 in 2012) gets the start for Toronto. The Indians counter with righty Ubaldo Jimenez (9-17, 5.40 in 2012.)