ATLANTA -- A little more than two decades since seeing his prospect status erased by the revelation of a congenital defect, Braves knuckleballer R.A. Dickey has reached a milestone that highlights the determination and dependability he has shown throughout his professional career.
Dickey could fully appreciate the significance of completing his 2,000th career inning during Wednesday's 8-2 loss to the Cubs at SunTrust Park. But as he accounts for how well he has pitched over the course of the past month, the 42-year-old veteran is not ready to simply reminisce about a career that appears to be far from complete.
"My stuff is there, and I'm thankful for that," Dickey said.
Thought he surrendered a pair of homers and allowed the Cubs four runs over seven innings, Dickey still owns an impressive 1.80 ERA over his past six starts. He has proven to be the dependable innings-eater the Braves envisioned, and he also created reason for the team to contemplate exercising his $8 million option for the 2018 season.
Having been swept by the Cubs this week and now facing the daunting task of playing their next four games against the Dodgers, the Braves might have to soon start thinking about becoming sellers before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Along the way, the Braves may have to decide whether to try to get some value for Julio Teheran, whose $8 million salary for the 2018 season arguably isn't more attractive than the one that would be owed Dickey, who has seen the Braves win eight of his past 12 starts.
"You can't expect him to go out and just be perfect all of the time," Braves manager Brian Snitker said after Wednesday's game. "He's been really good, and he wasn't bad today, either."
Having an opportunity to continue pitching at the big league level well into his 40s seemed highly improbable at various points of his life. Thus, there is certainly reason for Dickey to appreciate being one of just 26 pitchers to complete at least 2,000 innings since the start of 2001 -- the year he made his Major League debut.
After being selected with the 18th overall pick in the 1996 MLB Draft, Dickey learned he was not born with an ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He lost the $825,000 signing bonus the Rangers had offered, and he accepted a $75,000 bonus rather than cash a $1 million insurance equity that would have prevented him from ever pitching professionally.
Dickey experienced the occasional taste of the big leagues, but he primarily toiled in the Minor Leagues until he developed the knuckleball and finally found a lasting spot in the Majors in 2010, when he was 35 years old. He certainly hasn't allowed age to serve as a detrimental influence as he has completed the fifth-most innings among all pitchers since the start of '11.
"One thing I've always tried to do is be a dependable and trustworthy asset to a team," Dickey said. "If you're throwing 2,000 innings, you've probably done that for a good stretch of your career. That's what that means to me."