TSN 1050's Scott MacArthur and TSN contributors Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star and Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com discuss why the Blue Jays are so inconsistent, J.A. Happ's future in the rotation and manager John Gibbons' usage of R.A. Dickey. Click here to listen to The Baseball Podcast.
TORONTO - R.A. Dickey may have gotten the win on Tuesday night, his fourth victory of the season, but he suggested afterward he would spend the next 18 hours beating himself up over the way that seventh inning played out.
Dickey started the inning with a 5-1 lead, the Jays had just scored three in the sixth to pad their advantage, but he wouldn't finish the inning. In fact, he didn't get an out over four batters. A lead off single by Asdrubal Cabrera could have been erased on a double play ground ball by David Murphy, but Brett Lawrie booted the hot shot at second base. A walk and a hit batter later, Toronto's lead was cut to 5-2 and Dickey's night was over.
Aaron Loup came in and chipped his way out of Dickey's jam, although two inherited runners scored to trim the lead to 5-4. That would be the game's final score.
The knuckleballer wants to pitch deeper into games but he knows his stat line isn't the top priority.
"We want to win ballgames," said Dickey. "Regardless of how I feel about how deeply I go. If that's the right move, it's the right move and if it ends in a win, great. I just think that I'm more than capable with the stuff that I possess presently to be able to go deeper into games and I think I will."
Dickey's thrown 53 2/3 innings over nine starts. That's relatively simple math: he's averaging just less than six innings per start. Last year, Dickey averaged almost 6 2/3 innings per outing. There are a lot of starts left but using the current numbers, a two out per start difference means the Jays' bullpen would be asked to pick up about 70 more outs in Dickey's starts over the course of a full year.
"More frustrated is kind of how I feel," said Dickey. "I think some of it's just baseball, i.e. a hit batsman or a single on a 1-2 count that you should have gotten the guy out on. I don't want to over-think it or overanalyze it but at the same time I also want to be honest about the things I maybe could do differently to get us deeper into the game."
Dickey is healthy, something he couldn't say this time last year as he pitched through a strained muscle in his upper back. He isn't tiring later into games, something he suggested was happening earlier this season and when he studies his velocities inning-over-inning the readings reflect improved durability.
He's pleased just as much with the movement on his knuckleball.
"I think, from my end, I just have to keep feeling good," said Dickey. "I think as long as I'm healthy and feeling good over the course of the next 24 starts, quite a few of them I'll be able to go deeper into the game if I can just stay healthy."
Dickey was drafted way back in 1996. He laughs when he's told it was 18 years ago, as if he's hearing it for the first time and can't believe how quickly time has passed. There's certainly some truth to the latter.
He remembers breaking into the game at a time when it was assumed starters would take the ball and for better or worse, keep it.
"It's obvious that the majority of pitchers now, generationally that are new that come up into the game, have this 100-pitch threshold where it's almost like they've been convinced that that's as far as they are capable of going because that's always when they've been taken out of games," said Dickey. "Early on, and I'm talking about 2000, 2001 when I was first up, guys would routinely throw 120 (pitches) like it was nothing and they would just suck up the innings as much as they could."
Dickey subscribes to the notion that strict pitch counts can affect a pitcher's approach as a game wears on.
"A starter that sees that he's close to 100 pitches maybe starts to anticipate that his time may be done instead of thinking to himself, 'I'm going to keep going through this because this is my game,'" said Dickey. "There's been a shift in mentality for sure."
He remembers a start at Fenway Park last September. Dickey threw a complete-game eight innings in a 5-2 loss to the Red Sox. He was in trouble early but settled down, gave his team a chance to win and saved the bullpen a day's work.
He points to Drew Hutchison's start earlier this month in Philadelphia. Staked to a 5-0 lead and cruising, Hutchison coughed up five runs in the sixth inning but hung in to pitch the seventh and eighth. The Blue Jays would win 6-5 in 10 innings that night.
"I do think that there are certain times on a case by case basis, depending on the game situation, where it's good for the starter to grind through that seventh and eighth inning," said Dickey. "I did that a number of times last year when I would give up four or five runs and go seven or eight innings just to save the 'pen. Now, we're early in the year, we're trying to get wins, however (Gibbons) thinks that we can do that, that's what we should do."
WAGNER ON THE CAROUSEL
Neil Wagner is back with the Blue Jays, recalled before Wednesday's game against the Indians.
He's up for the second time this season. As a player with options remaining, trips to and from Buffalo are to be expected when part of an organization that sees value in regular player movement.
"The fact that you know that that's just kind of how it is and that there's nothing that can be done about it doesn't make it any less frustrating but the bottom line is that if you go down there and put up your numbers and do your thing," said Wagner. "If you sit and mope you're not going to come back."
Wagner replaces Chad Jenkins, who was optioned back to Buffalo for a third time, already, this season.
Also, the Blue Jays recalled catcher Erik Kratz from the Bisons to fill the roster spot voided by Dioner Navarro, who was placed on the bereavement/family emergency list.
Navarro can return at any time and has up to seven days to be away from the team.