CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons believes this is the best he has seen R.A. Dickey during the last four years of Spring Training, and the club hopes that will bode well for the start of the season.
Dickey struggled early during each of his first three seasons in Toronto. His numbers in the second half have been impressive each of those years, but a high early-season ERA meant the veteran knuckleballer was constantly pitching from behind.
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The goal this year is to avoid the rough start. During previous springs, Dickey was battling some mechanical issues -- neck and knee injuries over the years didn't help either -- but so far this year everything has been going according to plan.
"I feel like I have my legs under me, and that's always nice," Dickey said. "I don't feel like I worked necessarily any harder, I will say being a little older I've had to watch my diet a little bit more and that's helped. Outside of that I haven't done much different, but I feel great and I'm sure it looks different so that's a fair comment from [Gibbons]. I feel as good as I have in any spring."
Dickey's pitching line from Saturday's 8-4 loss to the Phillies might not have looked overly impressive, but that also ignores several key points. The former Cy Young Award winner surrendered a two-run homer in the third to David Lough on an inside fastball that Dickey wanted to test out but said he would never throw in the regular season.
Outside of that one blip, Dickey pitched quite similarly to the way he has all spring. He retired the side in order in the first, second and fourth innings. With a low pitch count, he returned for the fifth and allowed a one-out single on a sharp grounder to second base that Ryan Goins couldn't handle.
Dickey felt his velocity was up a bit, but it was hard to tell for sure because the radar gun at Bright House Field was having some issues. One of Dickey's knuckleballs was registered at 102 mph, but in reality he likely upped the velocity to the mid-70s. That will remain an area of focus over the next couple of weeks.
"I'm going to try to add a couple of miles an hour here routinely," Dickey said. "That last inning, I wanted to step on a few, and I was able to do that and it felt great out of my hand. No little aches or pains when I did that so that's a good sign.
"So I'll look to do that, look to work on my cutter a little bit and maybe drive a few fastballs into lefties a little bit as we go forward but I feel like I'll be able to do that pretty easily."
The Blue Jays also announced another round of cuts, and this time it was a big wave of departures as 10 players were reassigned to Minor League camp on Saturday.
Top prospects OF Anthony Alford, 1B Rowdy Tellez and SS Richard Urena headlined the list of players who were returned to the Minors. The group also included IF Jon Berti, RHP Taylor Cole, RHP Scott Copeland, 1B Matt Dean, OF Roemon Fields, C Danny Jansen and LHP Pat McCoy.
Toronto currently has 55 players remaining in camp. The latest round of cuts comes as the Minor League side prepares for the start of its Spring Training schedule, which gets underway early next week.
None of the cuts came as a surprise, as all of the players were originally scheduled to begin the year in the Minors. Alford is ranked the club's No. 1 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, Urena is ranked No. 6 and Tellez begins the year as No. 8 overall.