MacArthur: Dickey thinks window will close if Jays don't win

Scott MacArthur
3/3/2014 9:56:17 PM
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DUNEDIN, Florida - Whether the approach translates to on-field success will only be revealed with the passage of time but it's obvious to those who've been around the first two weeks of camp: the 2014 Blue Jays, constructed and built to win beginning in 2013, have no intention of repeating the misery that befell the ballclub a season ago.

The attitude is all business. One of the major pieces of the club's puzzle knows it ought to be, given what's happened and what could happen if Toronto's fortunes don't turn around.

"I think guys are singularly focused on trying to get the most out of what we have collectively here," knuckleballer R.A. Dickey told "I think last year we were kind of handcuffed a little bit by a few different variables but this year guys are together and they know it's basically we need to make this work or it could all get blown up.

"We know that and we don't want that to happen so guys are focused."

There's been no speech alluding to a closing window of opportunity but the veteran players, all too familiar with the business of baseball, sense that after falling flat in the season after club ownership increased payroll by some $40-million, another failed year won't be tolerated.

You can have one bad year as a group. A second consecutive down season and the "this team can't get it done" narrative cements itself in reality.

Dickey, himself, is looking for a bounce back season. The trend is positive, dating back to last year. In 20 first half (pre-All Star Break) starts, Dickey was 8-10 with a 4.69 ERA, 20 home runs allowed and a strikeout to walk ratio of less than two-to-one. He threw 128 2/3 innings, averaging a little more than 6 1/3 per start.

After the break, in 14 starts, Dickey went 6-3, 3.56, 15 home runs allowed and stuck out more than three-and-a-half hitters for every walk. Dickey's 96 second half innings work out to almost seven per start. While still prone to the long ball, everything else improved, including his health.

Dickey pitched through a strained muscle in his neck, something that began in spring training but by mid-April had mushroomed into a pain that forced him to consider a stint on the disabled list.

"You know how things progress," said Dickey. "It starts as something very mild and you just keep going on and thinking it's probably going to go away and then something happens and it gets much more significant. It had been there in the spring. When everything gets cranked back up some things aren't necessarily in the right places yet."

There are no such concerns now.

"Physically, I'm stronger," said Dickey.

Mentally, Dickey's refreshed. The trade to Toronto wasn't the only matter on his plate last offseason. He was promoting his book, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, working with child sex victims in Mumbai and by the time camp started, was being followed by a reporter and camera crew from 60 Minutes.

Aside from a fundraiser in New York City and a family vacation to Florida, Dickey had a much quieter winter this year.

"That was intentional," said Dickey. "Anne and I both felt like it was a season to be at home together. With the year before, with the trade and the book and India and the Cy Young and all of that, just really spread me very thin. Having a good mate, she realized that was one of the things that should probably change this offseason and she was right."

When it's pointed out to Dickey that the American League East likely will be stronger this year than last - the Red Sox are the defending World Series champions, the Rays have great starting pitching, the Orioles added pitching in support of a potent offense and the Yankees retooled - the knuckleballer acknowledged the Blue Jays will need a diamond in the rough, maybe more than one, to emerge.

"I think that every championship club has to have a guy on the team that you don't expect a ton out of that steps up and does something special for you," said Dickey. "Whether it's a position player or a pitcher, in our case I think the hope is there's going to be a pitcher that steps up and gives you something that you weren't anticipating and it's going to lift you into the next place."

Drew Hutchison could be the guy, based on early camp returns.

"I think Drew's a name," Dickey concurred. "I think Todd Redmond's a name. There are others in this clubhouse that I think, by the end of the year, we'll have a conversation about this day and you'll say, 'Yeah, that was the guy that you were talking about and here's what happened.' That's the hope. That's what we're hopeful for."


The Blue Jays' longest spring trip, not including two games in Montreal later this month, got out of hand early and finished with a 12-2 drubbing at the hands of the Twins in Lee County, near Fort Myers.

J.A. Happ struggled badly, retiring one of only seven hitters he faced. He allowed four runs on two hits, walking four in a third of an inning of work.

The game was the first played under MLB's new replay rules.

In the sixth inning, manager John Gibbons challenged a close play at first base in which the Twins' Chris Rahl was ruled safe when shortstop Munenori Kawasaki's high throw brought first baseman Jared Goedert off the bag.

After a review lasting more than two and a half minutes, the umpires upheld the call on the field.


While it isn't yet long enough or messy enough to be mistaken for the facial hair you see on Duck Dynasty, Steve Delabar is committed to the beard he's wearing in camp.

Where this odyssey will take him, he doesn't know.

"No plan," said Delabar. "It's not a bother to me. It doesn't itch. It doesn't get in my way. I get good comments from it."

He wouldn't be the first late-game reliever to create a specific look but Delabar, typically low-key and easy going, isn't trying to strike fear in opposing hitters. This was a concoction for the hunting season.

"It's not an intimidation thing at all," said Delabar. "I started growing it in the offseason, I've trimmed it a couple of times and I'm just letting it go."

There will be no dying his facial hair, like Brian Wilson of the Dodgers. It'll have its natural tinges of red, white and brown.

 "It's going to become what it becomes on its own and I'm going to let it do what it does," said Delabar.

What about his wife, Jamie? Is she agreeable to all of this?

"My wife tells me I've got stuff hanging off of it all the time but it's not intentional.

"She puts up with it," Delabar continued. "It's not like, 'Ooh, I like the beard,' it's not like that. She'd rather me trim it and have it groomed nicely and keep it clean but that ain't me."

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