LAKELAND, Fla. – He worked 4 1/3 innings and was charged with eight hits and six runs, five of them earned, but the Braves’ R.A. Dickey walked away from Wednesday’s 8-6 loss to the Tigers feeling pretty good about where things stand for the aging knuckleballer with the regular season looming in two weeks.
His 7.71 ERA in three Grapefruit League starts might not inspire confidence from Braves fans who aren’t familiar with the recent work of a 42-year-old former Cy Young Award winner, who lost his spot in Toronto’s starting rotation late last season, but Dickey said he’s ready. Or, at least, close.
“It’s not about scoreboard results as much as it’s about making sure your body’s right,” said Dickey, who had three strikeouts to go with two walks and threw 46 strikes in 78 pitches. “I’m pretty close. Got a lot of ground balls, gave up a lot of first-pitch hits; a lot of times those are going to go right at guys, ground balls. I wasn’t great, but certainly good enough to win a baseball game.”
It was difficult to judge him on a windy, sunny day when a couple of ground balls did become hits, including one just before Andrew Romine’s two-run homer in the three-run third inning. The last run of that inning scored on a two-out wild pitch — with Kurt Suzuki catching Wednesday, Dickey had two wild pitches — and another run charged to Dickey scored after he left the game in the fifth, when prospect Johan Camargo lost an infield pop-up in the sun and had it land several feet in front of him.
Camargo made his sixth error of the season on the previous play, on a grounder to short, allowing Steven Moya to reach base.
Anyway, Dickey felt like a play here and a pitch there and things could have been quite different.
“I think so,” he said. “(Third baseman Chase) d’Arnaud made a great play down the line on a ball that another day is probably an out. It’s just we had some weird plays out there today. But it was all about getting your work in, making sure your body knows what it feels like to get up and down, up and down, up and down, to build into those first outings of the year.”
And in that regard, Dickey said mission accomplished. Dickey said he’d not be surprised to have a strong performance when the regular season begins. He’s made three official spring-training starts and one other in a minor league game.
“Oh, yeah, I’m really close,” he said. “I’m not all the way there, but I’m really close. I’m where I want to be, let’s put it that way. And Kurt did a pretty good job today, too.”