TORONTO - When R.A. Dickey takes the mound on Monday in Chicago, he'll be pitching to the catcher with whom he is most familiar.
Dickey has formed the battery with Josh Thole 66 times in his major league career. Nobody else comes close. Joe Mauer's 20 games worked with Dickey is second most since he became a knuckleballer.
"I'm sure it'll be like riding a bike for him," said Dickey of Thole reacclimatizing to the knuckleball. "He's really good at it."
"I suppose it shouldn't be too hard," said Thole. "Maybe a bullpen under my wing and should be fine going into the game."
Thole was one of the less-heralded pieces of the trade which brought Dickey to Toronto. He was promptly signed to a two-year deal worth $2.5 million but had no assurances he would make the team out of spring training.
He didn't. The role of back-up catcher went to the man he now replaces, Henry Blanco, who on Friday was designated for assignment.
In a business where merit is preached but less often practiced, Thole earned his call up with strong offensive numbers at Triple-A and his handling of the Bisons' pitching staff.
In 41 games at Buffalo, Thole's hitting .322/.383/.510 with seven home runs and 31 RBI. He attributes his success at the plate to a routine implemented in spring training with the help of hitting coach Chad Mottola and Jon Nunnally, the hitting coach at Buffalo.
"Just more so staying down through the ball instead of inside-outing balls like I have done in the past," said Thole. "I think it's given me the opportunity to drive the ball a little bit more and still get on base and do what I feel like my game is."
"This gives us a chance to get a little more offence," said manager John Gibbons.
Gibbons may be looking to spell J.P. Arencibia, who has started every game but one in which Dickey hasn't pitched. Blanco was strictly Dickey's catcher. Thole will, for the most part, play the same role but could see additional time, perhaps in a scenario where a day game follows a night game.
"We don't know how much he'll play but I'm sure he'll play more than Henry did," said Gibbons. "But I don't know how it's going to shake out yet."
Dickey, more than anyone else, understands the business of the sport but lamented the loss of Blanco.
"Henry's a friend and has been for a while, so to lose a friend, there's a human component to this that gets overlooked sometimes," said Dickey. "It's hard to lose a friend any time. From a performance standpoint, he obviously has done admirably and it's for other people to tell you why he was sent out. We would be in a much worse situation if we didn't have a guy like Josh in the holster. In another organization where we didn't have Josh down there, you don't make the move, I'm sure. But having Josh come up, who has a lot of experience with me, it should be a pretty seamless transition."
One day after optioning OF Anthony Gose back to Triple-A Buffalo, the Blue Jays recalled infielder Andy LaRoche.
LaRoche, 29, was hitting .282/.358/.463 with the Bisons.
In 403 career major league games with the Dodgers, Pirates and Athletics, LaRoche is a .226/.305/.337 hitter with 22 home runs and 113 RBI.
LaRoche is the younger brother of Nationals' first baseman Adam LaRoche.
He'll provide infield depth off the bench, particularly at third base in the absence of Brett Lawrie.
Lawrie, 23, is rehabbing a sprained left ankle at the Blue Jays' complex in Dunedin, Florida. He's still in a walking boot, making Lawrie's timeline for a return uncertain.
After Friday's game the Blue Jays announced oft-injured right-hander Dustin McGowan had been activated from the disabled list. He'll be available on Saturday.
McGowan, 31, made eight appearances at Triple-A Buffalo. He had an ERA of 7.00 but the Blue Jays were encouraged by his 12 strikeouts in nine innings.
To make room for McGowan, pitcher Todd Redmond was optioned to Buffalo.