In his first outing of this spring, Braves right-hander R.A. Dickey’s signature pitch danced like it was July.
“I would take that knuckleball into the regular season right now,” Dickey said Monday after pitching two inning against the Tigers. “If it’s good, it’s good. It doesn’t matter when in the spring. Good ones are good ones. It’s just a matter of repeating that for 100 pitches.
“That’s the real goal for me in the spring is to build up my arm strength, get my endurance up and be able to repeat that mechanic for 100 pitches.”
Dickey faced a Tigers lineup full of regulars and held them to two hits and one earned run over two innings. Lead-off man Ian Kinsler hit a weak single off the bat near his hands. Two batters later, Miguel Carbera poked a soft double to right-field on an 0-2 pitch to score Kinsler.
Dickey said that soft contact was a good sign because it indicated that even his knuckleball pitches that weren’t moving dramatically still were tough to hit solidly.
“You throw those big (breaking) ones no one is hitting those, that’s just the way it is,” Dickey said. “If you throw a good one, it does that, it’s a great one. But it’s the other ones that matter to me. Am I getting soft contact? Both (Cabrera’s) hit and Ian’s hit were not well struck.”
Dickey walked Nicholas Castellanos to begin the second inning before retiring Alex Avila and Anthony Gose. Jose Iglesias reached base and Castellanos scored on an error by second baseman Travis Demeritte.
Catcher Kurt Suzuki handled Dickey’s knuckleball with no major issues. He blocked a late-breaking pitch with Cabrera on second base and kept a third strike to Justin Upton in front of him after dropping it.
Dickey said he’s worked with all three veteran catchers during spring camp: Suzuki, Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker. He said that, ideally, all three would take turns catching him during exhibition games and become accustomed to his knuckleball. That way, manager Brian Snitker will have flexibility with his lineups during the season.
“The hope is that everybody will be able to do it, and I think they will be able to,” he said.