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Arencibia already familiar with Dickey's knuckler

Associated Press

2/12/2013 7:55:36 PM

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- When Toronto's J.P. Arencibia crouches behind the plate for right-hander R.A. Dickey's first spring training pitch, the knuckleball won't be strange to him.

Arencibia has never caught one in a game, but he's quite familiar with Dickey.

"Me and R.A. both live in Nashville in the off-season, so me and him have been working the whole time since they signed him," the catcher said Tuesday.

After Dickey went 20-6 last year for the Mets, he became the first knuckleballer to win a Cy Young Award and then was traded in December when New York couldn't sign him to a new contract for beyond 2013 at a price the team liked. As part of the trade, Toronto signed the 38-year-old to a $25 million, two-year extension.

Arencibia's only other knuckleball experience was facing Boston's Tim Wakefield in 2011. Arencibia struck out three times but his two hits in nine at-bats were home runs, and he had five RBIs.

Already announced as Toronto's opening-day starter, Dickey was 41-50 over nine major league seasons entering 2013.

Arencibia described his first time catching Dickey in Nashville as "um, pretty interesting."

"Tough pitch. The biggest thing is learning to put your pride aside," Arencibia said. "The problem going in is that you know you're not going to catch every ball. Even the best catchers are going to struggle every once in a while. As I've had more and more reps, I've become more familiar with how he's going to throw. I could sense which way the ball was going to go. But that pitch is really humbling. Each time you think you're figured it out, that's when it hits you right in the chest."