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
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.
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.
The Twins will likely be without pitcher Boof Bonser for
the entire 2009 season after doctors discovered partial tears in the labrum and
rotator cuff in his right shoulder during arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday.
Two previous MRIs done on Bonser’s shoulder had revealed
no structural damage. But the tears were discovered and repaired during the arthroscopic
scope performed by Rays orthopedist Dr. Koko Eaton.
Bonser is expected to miss six to eight months recovering
from the surgery.
The pitcher first began experiencing shoulder discomfort
at the end of last season. An MRI performed at that time revealed no structural
damage, and Bonser was ordered to rest the shoulder and begin a rehabilitation
But the rehab didn’t help. Bonser tried to throw in early
January and felt the same discomfort. The right-hander received a cortisone
shot from Dr. Eaton just a few days before he reported for Spring Training, The
shot had little effect on the problem, and Bonser has not really thrown since
workouts began last Monday.
With Bonser out of the mix for the Twins bullpen,
right-handers Philip Humber, who is out of options and Jason Jones, a Rule 5
pick, are now the favorites to win the final spot if the Twins keep seven
relievers. R.A. Dickey, a knuckleballer, and left-hander Sean Henn are also
among those expected to compete for the job.
There is a chance that the Twins could break camp with an
11-man pitching staff, meaning just six relievers will make the Opening Day
roster, but so far that appears to be a long shot.
The quietest day of Spring Training is always the day that pitchers and catchers report. While players have to technically be in Fort Myers, they aren’t required to be at the ballpark – let alone to work out. Usually the Twins have a few guys who, in addition to unpacking their lockers, head out to the fields to get a little throwing in, but it’s not an organized effort.
However this year was a little different than most. By around 11:00 a.m. there was a large group of pitchers who had gathered inside the clubhouse at Hammond Stadium and most of them proceeded out to the practice fields. It included a range of players from closer Joe Nathan to starter Scott Baker and even newcomers like Jason Jones and Sean Henn.
Of course, Reporting Day is also the day to catch up and chat with some of the guys that you haven’t seen in months. One of the guys that everyone looks forward to sitting down and talking to is Mike Redmond as he can always be counted on for an interesting conversation.
A funny exchange occurred on Sunday when Redmond walked back into the clubhouse following his workout. Joe Mauer was sitting at his locker, which is next to Redmond’s, and had a glove waiting to hand to him. It was bigger than most catcher’s gloves and without having to see the name “Dickey” inscribed on the glove, Redmond knew exactly what it meant — time to start catching the knuckleball.
“We almost put a Mirabelli tag above your locker,” Mauer joked.
Redmond isn’t a stranger to knuckleballers like R.A. Dickey, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee. When he was with the Marlins, he caught Dennis Springer who was the club’s No. 5 starter in 1999. I chatted with Redmond a little bit about catching a knuckleball and he said that it takes some time to get adjusted to seeing that movement again. Mauer was a little disappointed that he won’t get to spend as much time catching Dickey this spring since he’ll be limited in his workload.
The glove was given to Mauer by R.A. Dickey, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee. Normally, Redmond said, knuckleballers don’t give catchers gloves. But it happened to be a good thing that Dickey had an extra one, since the ones that Mauer and Redmond ordered had not yet arrived.
In terms of news on Sunday, it was a pretty quiet day. Mauer was waiting to find out what he would be able to do during Monday’s first workout for pitchers and catchers. Right-hander Luis Ayala arrived at camp and is waiting for his contract to be finalized. He’s scheduled to take his physical on Monday and then the Twins will have to make a corresponding move to make room for him on the 40-man roster.