Braves shuffle rotation to give Dickey extra rest


He worked six innings and threw a modest 94 pitches in his last start Friday, so that’s not the reason that Braves knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is feeling fatigued and will have his next start pushed back to Sunday.

“Just overall body, being old, I think,” the 42-year-old said candidly. “And throwing a lot of innings. I needed a couple of extra days, this was a good time to do it. I mean, I could have pitched. But it’s nice that we have the luxury.

“I’ve been asking maybe for a couple of outings, if there was an opportunity (to give him extra rest). And this is a perfect opportunity.”

Indeed, the Braves have the luxury of shuffling the rotation to accommodate the former Cy Young Award winner because of two off days in the schedule Monday and Thursday around a two-game series against the Phillies Tuesday and Wednesday at SunTrust Park. They start a seven-game trip Friday with the opener of a three-game series at St. Louis, where Dickey will pitch the Sunday series finale instead of his usual turn that would’ve been Friday.

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Dickey is 3-2 with a 2.22 ERA in his past nine starts and lasted at least six innings in eight of those games including seven innings in five.

Mike Foltynewicz will start Friday and rookie Lucas Sims gets the Saturday game, both pitching on an extra day of rest because of the off days.

Dickey will have eight days of rest, twice the normal length, when he pitches Sunday. While no one cited it as a factor, the move also allows Dickey to avoid pitching at Coors Field, where he has never pitched in a game and would just as soon keep it that way. He has pitched at nearby Colorado Springs as a minor leaguer and thrown bullpen side sessions at Coors Field, noting how difficult it was to throw the knuckleball in the thin air of mile-high Denver.

Dickey pitched three seasons for the Mets (2010-12) and 11 seasons with five American League teams. He has pitched 391 games (291 starts) in 35 major league ballparks, but none in Coors Field. The Braves play a four-game series there starting Monday. Dickey pitches Sunday at St. Louis and then would make his next start the following Friday against Cincinnati in the opener of a nine-game homestand.

He is 6-2 with a 3.30 ERA in 12 starts at SunTrust Park and 1-5 with a 4.99 ERA in 10 road starts.

Instead of pitching Friday, Dickey will be able to drive home to Nashville with his wife early Thursday and spend the day there with their four children, including a 10-year-old son who has a football scrimmage that Dickey will attend. He’ll take a commercial flight to St. Louis on Friday morning.

Dickey leads the Braves with 134 innings pitched in 22 starts, while Julio Teheran was next with 125 1/3 innings before making his 23rd start Tuesday night against the Phillies. Foltynewicz has 121 innings in 22 games (21 starts) and the only other Brave with as may as 65 innings this season was Jaime Garcia, who pitched 113 innings in 18 starts before he was traded to the Twins.

One of his stated goals entering the season was to pitch at least 200 innings. Dickey still has at least an outside shot at reaching that if he makes 10 more starts.

“I hope so. We’ll be right at it,” he said. “I probably have 10 starts left. So if I average a little over six innings a start I can get there; (190) should be a layup. I’m hoping for 205.”

Dickey signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Braves in November that included a $7.5 million salary this season and an $8 million team option for 2018 with a $500,000 buyout. He was noncommittal Monday when asked by a reporter whether he’s thought much about the possibility of the Braves picking up that option.

“It’s hard for me to even think about that, to be honest,” Dickey said. “I’m going to see how my body feels, what they’re thinking. I don’t really have an agenda at this moment. I just want to finish strong. That’s the truth…. 

“I haven’t really kicked it around. Just trying to get through this season. It’s everything I can do to just stay in-the-moment with it at this point. I mean, my kids are going back to school; I just went back to Nashville to see them. This is the hard part of the year for me. (Kids spend summer in Atlanta) then they’re gone. So ... I get to go home for a couple of days off here, get ready for the push (to the end of the season).”

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