DUNEDIN, Florida – The Yankees roughed up R.A. Dickey on Wednesday afternoon at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, Dickey's final appearance before he throws his second consecutive Opening Day for the Blue Jays.
Dickey met with the media to preview the season, discuss the club's decision to keep Josh Thole over Erik Kratz and outline his plans for the next few days. He will not travel with the team to Montreal.
Here is a transcript of the conversation:
QUESTION: R.A., kind of one last chance to work a few things out as opposed to looking at it as a regular season game?
DICKEY: Oh yeah. Today was not a day about results for me. I mean, ideally, it would be great to get out of there with some clean innings but what was paramount for me was to exercise my arm in a way where I felt good and I was able to use a large range of velocities and mix in pitches that I would never throw during the regular season maybe to put it in their head that that's another weapon that I might use on them later. So I did exactly what I wanted to do. I got my exercise. I came out of spring feeling good. It was a good spring for me. My velocity is there. Now it's just a matter of going to work."
QUESTION: Not to say anything bad about Kratz but with Thole now being named your guy, I mean he has more experience with you than pretty much any catcher. Is that a good feeling to know that Thole's going to be your guy this year?
DICKEY: Yeah. Look, Kratz did a great job. He improved every time out. There is, obviously, no replacement for experience and I think that's probably the angle that the leadership was coming from in making the decision to stick with Thole. It's important for us to get off to a good start, I think, this year and whatever's going to help us do that, so to take that doubt, even if it was just a miniscule doubt, out of the equation completely is good for me. It's good for everybody.
QUESTION: But they didn't ask you personally what you thought?
DICKEY: No and I didn't want them to. I wanted them to evaluate it on their own. They have enough baseball people in place to be able to see with their own eyes and make the decision accordingly. That's a tough position for a teammate to be put in and I didn't want any part of it.
QUESTION: Are you comfortable throwing to (Kratz) if that happens later in the season?
DICKEY: Absolutely. I thought he did a very good job of improving every time out.
QUESTION: Are you as ready as you think you can be for your Opening Day assignment?
DICKEY: Yes. I feel prepared. I feel confident, which is great. Last year, I didn't feel very confident simply because I didn't feel as prepared. I'm really looking forward to getting started and being able to adjust my schedule this year in a way that really maximizes my preparedness has been great. To have the two games where I pitched eight innings and then to have this taper down outing is great.
QUESTION: R.A., what are your plans for the two or three days the team is in Montreal?
DICKEY: Well, I'm going to be hanging back and staying with Josh. Josh is going to stay back. We'll throw a bullpen on Friday and then we'll probably head over together on Saturday, meet the team and it will become regimen after that. The season will begin and I'll just be working out at the minor league complex until it's time to go.
QUESTION: At the beginning of camp, you were talking about how hopefully somebody steps up and becomes that surprise guy. Now you've got McGowan and Hutchison making the rotation. Has camp pretty much gone as you expected that, you know, you get some kids that come out and maybe a McGowan that no one expected?
DICKEY: Yeah, I don't think it ever goes as you expect it to. There's always a knuckleball thrown in there, you know, for lack of a better word. This year, you know, some guys have been called on to step up that maybe weren't expected to. McGowan probably didn't come into spring training thinking he was going to be a starter. He may be our fourth guy in the rotation and great, he's got the stuff for it and I think he wants to do it. Like I said early on, it's going to take one or two guys that you don't really count on when you come into camp stepping up and doing something special and we've got those guys in place right now.
QUESTION: R.A., the routine you got back to this spring, was it very similar to what you would have done in New York or were their adjustments?
DICKEY: No, it's almost exactly like 2011, 2012 for me where I was able to pitch a lot early on and then get to a place where I felt comfortable with my stuff and could just go out there and get my exercise that last outing. Again, this outing in particular for me was not at all about results. It was much more just about conditioning.
QUESTION: You had that upper back and neck issue, obviously, last year. Was that something that was even bothering you at the end of camp or was that something that didn't really pop up until later?
DICKEY: No, I was having to kind of step on the gas. A lot of times you labour to get to where you want to get to and I was labouring last year. This year, I feel like it's just coming pretty naturally for me so that's a big encouragement.
QUESTION: Is there an overall different feeling with the team as you get set to break camp compared to last year? There was so much going on, expectations were different. What's the difference in feeling this year?
DICKEY: I think the heartbeat is a lot different this year. I think, one, we're very comfortable. If I had a word to describe what this camp has been, it's been comfortable. Guys really know that this is a big year for us collectively. We're kind of getting a mulligan this year. Last year, a lot of things went wrong. This year, we're pretty much all healthy, we're here, we've been here all spring, we've been able to do relationship with one another and now we're in a much different place than we were last year and it's a much more comfortable place.
QUESTION: So does that mean it was uncomfortable a year ago?
DICKEY: It was for me, sure. I mean, coming in and out of camp, WBC, people flying all over the place, people getting hurt, yeah it was uncomfortable. I don't think it was what anybody wanted last year but every team has to deal with adversity throughout the season. We just were forced to deal with it very early on. Hopefully, this year, we will not have to do that.
QUESTION: Your thoughts on pitching Opening Dday. You got to do it last year but there's got to be something special about taking the mound in that first game?
DICKEY: Yeah, I've worked my whole career to try to be trustworthy. I think that's something I've always longed to be for a team is a trustworthy component. When you get the ball on Opening Day, the manager is saying, 'We trust you.' That's a special thing and it's not something I take lightly at all and so I'm very excited and very honoured to have the honour.
QUESTION: Getting back to the health issues, did you do anything differently in the offseason to change your conditioning regimen in response or in a way that might curb the possibility of a recurrence?
DICKEY: Yeah, I started earlier. I started earlier in the sense that last year, at the World Baseball Classic, I had to be game-ready a lot earlier in the spring than I did this year because you're competing in, basically what it came down to, an Olympic event. You just had to really step on the gas and my body just wasn't ready for that. This year, I didn't have that. I could really take my time and I did take my time. I started a little bit earlier and I was able to pump the brakes a little bit when I needed to and get to a place where I felt very comfortable taking the next step and then the next step. You're always trying to eliminate excuses. You don't want to have to say, well I don't feel great, or I have a WBC or we weren't together. Now we're starting to eliminate all those excuses out there that you could hold on to that could make you less than who you should be. So for me, being prepared and being healthy, those are not excuses for me.