TORONTO - On Wednesday afternoon, before the Blue Jays concluded their three-game series with the Colorado Rockies, TSN.ca sat down with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to discuss the club's recent winning streak, managing expectations and his health.
The following is the transcript of the interview:
TSN.ca: R.A. I think back to some of the things that you said after some starts earlier on in the year when things weren't good. I think you used the word "sad" after a game in New York, just the way that things were going for the team. You've talked about, you've wrote about it in your book, about managing regret. When things are going well for yourself and for the team, is it important to manage your way through the good times so that you don't get overconfident?
DICKEY: Sure. I think it's important to celebrate what's going on. I think that's very important. I think there's a way to do that that allows you to stay in the moment and not think too highly of where you're going or where you are. But as hard as we take defeats and not pitching or performing up to our expectation, it's healthy for us to celebrate things when they do go well.
TSN.ca: In terms of where you're at here right now, you've had some very good starts of late. Health-wise is the issue with your neck completely and totally out of the way? Because if you look at your miles per hour it seems like your velocity is back.
DICKEY: Yes, I'm over the hurdle of the neck and back issue that had plagued me for the better part of the first couple of months and I'm thankful for that because it really allows me to do my work in between innings and get back on a normal routine. I'm getting back to mechanically the way that I was last year and that's encouraging.
TSN.ca: How difficult was it, R.A., to pitch through that because we sit up there or we watch you on TV and you're out there and you're doing your thing. You didn't give any visible signs out there on the mound to the naked eye but how tough a stretch was that for you?
DICKEY: Well it's tough in the sense that I want to be what the Blue Jays gave up to get me. I want to be that good and so when you're not that good it can play tricks on your mind and you really have to focus and have some vision about where you want to go and work to that end. Now, a lot of times when you do have an injury you're limited in how much work you can do and even what you're able to produce on the field sometimes it can affect that. But with the type of pitch I throw and the style of pitching I exhibit on the field I'm able to take the ball sometimes when maybe as a conventional pitcher I wouldn't have been able to do that. I try to be thankful that I'm able to do that and put up some quality innings even when I'm not feeling great because I throw a knuckleball and I'm able to do that.
TSN.ca: You talk all the time, specific to your pitch, about the process and how you are learning everyday. Are there things that you take now that you're healthy, out of that month, month-and-a-half long stretch when things weren't so good, whether it's in your mechanics or in your delivery, have you grown out of that experience?
DICKEY: I think I'm growing out of that experience. When you're nursing injuries your body is going to choose the path of least resistance. A lot of times that's not the most mechanically efficient way. For me, I've gotten into some bad habits protecting my condition and my muscle memory started to learn those bad habits and it takes a couple of starts and some good times in between your bullpen to first be able to identify what those differences are and correct them. I'm getting to the place where I know what I need to correct and I feel like I'm healthy enough to correct them so that's a good sign.
TSN.ca: As a professional athlete does doubt, I mean you've been through so much and you've detailed it, does doubt ever creep into your mind? Maybe not so much for yourself but for the team? The expectations were so high at the start of the year and to get off to that 10-21 start through 31 games, was there ever any doubt that hey, maybe we're not going to be able to turn this around or do you have to be relentlessly optimistic?
DICKEY: Well, I think there's something to trying to have a bullet proof confidence and a short-term memory. I think that's important but we're not cyborgs, we're human beings and when things don't go like you anticipate them going you ask questions about those things and those questions sometimes do lead to doubt. We would be lying, everybody in here would be lying if we said we didn't have any fear or doubt. It's just, as athletes, we learn how to manage those things so they don't impact the way that we work, the way that we perform. But sure, yeah, I doubted myself and just got to the place where I needed to take the next step forward and was able to do that where it didn't impact me. We all go through that, everybody to a man in here deals with the same emotions that you would deal with away from the field.
TSN.ca: Is it easier or more difficult to maintain a winning streak than it is to snap out of a funk? When you're on a skid I'm sure it seems like it's never ending. When you're going through what you're going through right now, I'm sure you never want it to end.
DICKEY: Yeah, they're similar in that regard. I mean, when you're going badly, it's tough. You feel like you may never win another game and then you win another game and you're like, oh okay, we can do this again. When you're winning like we have been winning, you feel like when you come to the park there's nobody in the world that can beat you. It's just the psychology of competition, really. We're not afforded the luxury of panic in here, we can't, so we have to be steadfast in our belief in one another, our belief that we have the pieces in here to win a championship. So that's what we're doing, we're leaning on that belief and really encouraging one another. We're also growing closer as a clubhouse culture. I think when you throw a bunch of people in a clubhouse like we were thrown into at the beginning of the year and I had to go to the WBC and others had to break off from the team you miss something. You don't really know what that something is but you miss it. Slowly but surely I think we've really grown to be comfortable around one another and that's a big deal.
TSN.ca: Getting Reyes back very soon and considering that outside of that ninth inning home run in the first game of the win streak against Chicago that Jose Bautista had, I think he's had only three singles in the last six games in some 23 at bats, when you consider that you have gone on this stretch without Reyes and essentially without Bautista at his offensive best, are those little takeaways that as a club you can put in your back pocket and say if, man, we get Reyes back and Bautista gets hot, there's not necessarily a ceiling?
DICKEY: Yeah, you know, I think that's an encouragement, sure, but at the same time, the way that baseball is rarely do you ever have all nine people in the lineup going at full capacity all at once. Jose hadn't been playing like he's capable of playing so Edwin picks him up and Lindo picks him up and Izturis gets some big hits. I haven't been pitching like I'm capable of pitching and so Buehrle picks me up and we pick each other up. That's part of being on a good team is that you don't have to feel the pressure of having to be at your very best and not give up any runs every outing or, you know, the walls are going to crumble down around you. You have the luxury of looking to your left and seeing Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson and others, Rogers, who's stepped up just incredibly. That's part of being on a good team is that we pick each other up.
TSN.ca: In terms of the snowball effect and I mean this more in a fun way than a pressure way, you don't want to be the starting pitcher whose start snaps the streak?
DICKEY: It would be unprofessional of me to want it any more badly than I wanted it two weeks ago. That part doesn't change. You know, you can't say today I'm not going to be the guy because every time I go out there I want to win the baseball game, period, whether we're on a 50-game win streak or a 50-game losing streak, it doesn't matter. So that part doesn't change. As competitors we want it to last as long as it possibly can and we all want to do whatever we can do to make it last that long.
TSN.ca: When you first arrived here you talked about the opportunity to be a Canadian for a little while. How are you enjoying the city, how is your family adjusting and how different have you found it from Nashville and other places you've been?
DICKEY: Well it's a little bit different but difference doesn't always suggest that it's bad. I enjoy the differences between Canada and America to be honest with you. I've really enjoyed my time. I think the fan base is a very fair fan base. I know that I've felt encouragement when I should and I've also felt disdain when I should. That's part of having a passionate fan base and I wouldn't want it any other way.