LAKELAND, Fla. -- Though Kurt Suzuki and Tyler Flowers will both spend some time getting acquainted with R.A. Dickey's knuckleball, the Braves will eventually determine who will serve as Dickey's primary catcher once the regular season begins.Suzuki established himself as an early favorite as he capably took advantage of the
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Though Kurt Suzuki and Tyler Flowers will both spend some time getting acquainted with R.A. Dickey's knuckleball, the Braves will eventually determine who will serve as Dickey's primary catcher once the regular season begins.
Suzuki established himself as an early favorite as he capably took advantage of the opportunity to be behind the plate as Dickey made his Grapefruit League season debut during Monday's 10-7 loss to the Tigers at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.
"The thing that was most encouraging today was I had a really good [catcher]," Dickey said. "Kurt handled it very, very well. He made a great adjustment from the bullpen, where he was kind of struggling with it a little bit, to the game. He's just a pro, so he wants to be as great as he can. I try to help him as much as I can, but it's a hard thing to catch that thing."
Though Suzuki had never previously caught a knuckleballer during a game, he certainly didn't show any inexperience as he skillfully handled the dancing and darting pitch as Dickey surrendered a pair hits and two runs (one earned) over two innings.
"You know you're going to mess up every once in a while, but we'll see," Suzuki said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Benefiting from the poise and experience gained over the 10 seasons spent as a big league catcher, Suzuki exceeded his own expectations as he exited this new experience without having to chase a pitch to the backstop. The 33-year-old veteran dropped a wicked third-strike knuckler Justin Upton swung through in the first inning but kept the ball in front of him and calmly tagged the former Braves outfielder to end the frame.
"[Suzuki] looked really good with the way he went about it," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "Some of the called strikes he kept there for strikes were pretty good. He did a really good job."
Snitker will allow individual workloads and Dickey's input to determine exactly how much time Suzuki and Flowers will spend during Spring Training getting better acquainted to the knuckleball.
"I'm hoping everybody will keep cycling through so that there is not just one guy," Dickey said. "The more guys who can catch me, the more it frees up Snit to create lineups like he wants. The hope is that everybody will be able to do it, and I think everybody will be able to."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.