No more tipping for R. A. Dickey

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* RHP R.A. Dickey had a problem telegraphing his pitches in 2013 with the Blue Jays. He fixed the problem pitching 200 or more innings in each of his first two seasons in Toronto. ….

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Letters of Intent

By Bob Elliott

DUNEDIN _ Just before the all-star break in 2013 R.A. Dickey was jogging in the outfield at the Rogers Centre.

A scout motioned for the new Blue Jays right-hander to come over to talk when he was finished.

As Dickey approached the pro scout said “so, you’re fixed, huh?”.

Dickey had been tipping his pitches. The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox were aware of where to look.

“Any time you struggle you look to see if you were giving things away,” said Dickey Tuesday morning in the Jays clubhouse.

Pitching coach Pete Walker and bullpen coach Pat Hentgen noticed during a bullpen session that there was a difference in Dickey’s delivery:

On a knuckleball the inside of his right arm would tap against his belt as he began his motion.

On a fastball he was “real quiet” with his hands as he went towards the plate.

Now, he taps his belt as often as Brett Lawrie taps his foot.

On every pitch.

The scout said when Dickey held his glove higher than normal it meant a fastball or a throw to first.

“A guy like me throws knuckleballs 85% of the time, hitters know, I know, now whether it would allow them to tee off on a fastball …” said Dickey his voice trailing off. “It wasn’t like I had back-to-back outings against giving up eight runs.

“Most of my homers did came off fastballs though.”

Dickey lost his first start against the Yankees April 28 allowing three runs on four hits and four walks in seven innings as the Jays fell 3-2. He pitched a complete game and lost Aug. 21 — six hits, two walk and four runs in eight innings — and five days later pitched 6 1/3 innings allowing one earned run in a 5-2 win. He worked seven scoreless in a 2-0 September win.

The Red Sox faced Dickey before the break once scoring eight times — seven earned — on to hits and two walks in 4 2/3 innings in a 13-0 April loss. Dickey didn’t see Boston again until his next-to-last start, a 5-2 loss as he allowed five runs on six hits and a walk in eight innings.
Tipping pitches and the ability to discern what a pitcher is going to throw is as old as the game itself.

Dickey recalled when he with the 2011 New York Mets Alex Rodriguez came up to him before the final Mets-Yankees meeting of the year.

“ARod and I were teammates with the Texas Rangers, I never had a problem with him, he told me every time Josh Thole called a fastball he gave me a firm target,” Dickey said. “But if a knuckleball was coming, he didn’t give me a target.

“I don’t think when ARod told me he knew we’d both wind up in the same division some day.”

Thole and Dickey examined the video evidence and Rodriguez was accurate. So, since then Thole has not given Dickey a target.

Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman had a problem last year with men on base:

He’d come set with his glove held head high when he had the sign for a fastball.

He’d stop at the belt when he threw an off speed pitch.

Dioner Navarro noticed, it was super subtle,” said Stroman. “It was an easy fix.”

We saw Tom Paciorek come up to Jack Morris and say “remember when you were Detroit and I was with Seattle, we had every one of your pitches?”

Morris replied in Morris fashion “Yep, I pitched a four-hit shutout.”

Dickey was happy to see Mark DeRosa join the Jays, but was surprised when the former Washington Nationals infielder told the knuckleballer every hitter in the DC dugout knew when he threw a fastball.

“Funny thing, my numbers weren’t that bad against Washington the year I won the Cy Young award,” said Dickey, 2-2 with a 3.25 ERA in four starts against Washington. He allowed 30 hits and seven walks, fanning 22 in 27 2/3 innings.

Dickey said he has studied opposing pitchers looking for keys: holding the glove differently … a finger sticking out of the back of the mitt.

We heard Robbie Alomar’s Hall of Fame father, Sandy Alomar, explain to players at class-A Lansing how the pitcher the night before muscled up, gritting his teeth on a fastball while showing a relaxed facial expressions on an off speed pitch. And vice versa.

“I never felt confident enough to tell a guy ‘hey … this means a breaking ball,’ because I was afraid if the guy got a fastball instead he would come back and choke me out,” said Dickey. “I’ve never been that good at it. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are. Derek Jeter was rumored to be very good. DeRosa too.”

Looking back to the day Walker and Hentgen noticed the differences in Dickey’s delivery the starter admitted he thought about previous outings.

“You start reflecting on starts … could that have been the reason why?” Dickey said. “It’s the game within the game.”

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