Dickey earning more time in late innings

As the season has progressed and his recent hot streak has continued, R.A. Dickey has slowly been earning the confidence of the Twins coaching staff. And Dickey’s recent string of success led the situation that Dickey was placed in on Thursday — pitching in the seventh inning with the Twins holding a 6-3 lead.

The knuckleballer stepped up to the task as well, retiring all three batters he faced in the one inning of work.

“As I told him today, ‘Son, we’re going to probably be using you quite
a bit, if you keep throwing like this,’ ” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He can go
out there and throw just about every day.”

Dickey entered Thursday’s game having posted a 0.67 ERA over his previous 11 appearances (27 innings). Over that span, he held batters to a .170 batting average while issuing just five walks.

“There hasn’t really been a formal conversation [about a late-inning role],
but you kind of get a pulse of how things are moving,” Dickey said.
“Whether I’m getting outs in the seventh or the third, I’ve still gotta
get outs.”

All of his recent success has allowed Dickey to join Matt Guerrier, Jose Mijares and closer Joe Nathan as the pitchers in the ‘pen that Gardenhire now feels confident using when the team is holding a late lead.

“I enjoy that they have confidence in me, and I enjoy pitching in games that we’re winning,” said Dickey. “But I don’t put any more pressure on myself.”

Dickey might not feel the pressure but that’s not exactly true for the Twins catchers, who will now be catching him in higher intensity situations.

“It’s
getting a little easier but it’s still kind of uncomfortable when he’s throwing because it’s nasty,” Joe Mauer said of catching Dickey’s knuckleball. “He’s a guy who’s
been getting a lot of outs, and I’m sure he’ll probably be getting into
some closer situations.”

Based on Gardenhire’s comments, it sure seems like it.

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