Dickey's Blue Jays debut coming Opening Day
2012 NL Cy Young Award winner acquired from the Mets during offseason
R.A. Dickey is set to begin writing a new chapter in his unique career when he takes the mound on Opening Day in front of a sold-out crowd at Rogers Centre.
Toronto's No. 1 starter -- and a New York Times' best-selling author -- will finally get an opportunity to make his highly anticipated debut in a Blue Jays' uniform on Tuesday at 7:07 p.m. ET vs. the Indians.
The hype and expectations surrounding the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner are extremely high, but after everything he has been through in his career, Dickey appears ready to handle everything thrown his way.
"Yeah, but not more than I feel like I can manage," Dickey said when asked if he was feeling the anticipation and pressure that goes along with it. "My career arc has been such that I've been exposed to a lot of things.
"Let's just put it this way, I've been able to see a lot and it's an honor to be able to do this. But that game is no more important than Game 162 when we're playing for something."
The Blue Jays became the talk of Major League Baseball during an eventful offseason which saw the club become a top contender in the American League East.
Toronto acquired a four-time All-Star in shortstop Jose Reyes, a potential dominating right-hander in Josh Johnson, a reliable veteran starter in Mark Buehrle and an outfielder in Melky Cabrera, who would have won the NL batting crown last season if not for testing positive for testosterone.
But Dickey represents arguably the best of the bunch. He was the last major addition and provides the icing on the cake for a team that was completely overhauled during the last several months.
With that comes a bright spotlight, and the Blue Jays will find themselves under a microscope for most of the season. No one will be under more pressure than Dickey, who will attempt to silence critics who suggest he's incapable of repeating a 2012 campaign which saw him post a 20-6 record and 2.73 ERA while striking out 230 batters in 233 2/3 innings.
"It has been crazy at times," Dickey said. "But if you try to live my life mantra of moment to moment then it's easier to handle things. You really try to invest in whatever you're doing in that place and in that time. Then, it's usually not more than you can manage. I haven't felt overwhelmed at any point this spring."
Toronto Blue Jays
|Projected Opening Day lineup|
Life wasn't always this good for Dickey. In his book "Wherever I Wind Up," Dickey chronicles a difficult childhood where he was the victim of sexual abuse and faced the daunting task he faced in putting his life on the straight and narrow.
Even when Dickey broke into the big leagues more than a decade ago things didn't come easy. He struggled through parts of four seasons and his career seemed destined for failure when it was suggested to him in 2006 that he try throwing a knuckleball.
The first impressions of that pitch couldn't have been much worse. His lone appearance that season came in a start on April 6 where he tied a Major League record by allowing six home runs while also surrendering seven runs over just 3 1/3 innings.
There was no guarantee it was going to work out, although as fate would have it, slowly but surely it did. Experimentation with the knuckleball continued over the next three years, and at the age of 35, he really started to break through with the Mets in 2010.
He began that year on the verge of being released, but an early season outing in the Minors helped change all of that. Dickey received a callup and proceeded to post a 2.84 ERA in 174 1/3 innings. The following year it was more success, as he posted a 3.28 ERA before taking center stage with his banner Cy Young season.
"You wouldn't recognize me, it has just been that big of a change," Dickey said of where he is now compared to where he was back in that spring of 2006.
"You would recognize some things, the fact that I was throwing a knuckleball would really be the only correlation you could probably make, and the facial hair, outside of that it's not the same. But that's great. I'm hoping to continue to grow. I don't want to ever feel like I've arrived."
The laid-back atmosphere of the spring will quickly turn into a chaotic scene north of the border. It's an adjustment for every player at the start of the season, but Dickey's already had a taste of that environment this spring when he was a part of Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.
The season might not have begun, but Dickey already has a pair of starts in highly competitive games under his belt, which should only speed up his ability to gear up for the 162-game grind.
"It's going to be really loud and it should be a fantastic night for all of us," Dickey said. "But I've pitched in Olympic games, even the WBC when we were playing Mexico that first game with the roof closed. It was really, really loud.
"That's probably one thing that the WBC did for me, is that it allowed me to be in an environment that's not going to be too foreign from what I'm going to be in Opening Night."