ARLINGTON, Texas — R.A. Dickey’s journey to becoming a knuckleballer started in Texas. On this return visit he’s not sure whether he will be able to show off just how far he has come.
The 40-year-old right-hander is tentatively scheduled to pitch Monday in Game 4 of the American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers.
But first the Jays, down 2-0 in the best-of-five series, have to win Sunday to keep the series alive. And even then, the Jays could opt to bring back ace David Price to strengthen their bid to extend the contest to a fifth game.
Left-hander Derek Holland is slated to pitch for the Rangers in Game 4, if needed. Dickey was originally announced to face him but now MLB.com has a TBD by the Jays starter.
Toronto manager John Gibbons acknowledged Price could be inserted into the lineup Monday if the Jays get to another must-win game.
“Well, we’ve got to worry about (Sunday) first but of course that’s always a possibility,” Gibbons said when asked about Price following the Jays’ arrival in Texas. “We know we could do anything we wanted really. But not too wise to get that far ahead.”
While Dickey’s season got stronger and stronger, he was just 2-8 in 16 starts on the road this season with a 4.83 ERA.
Price, beaten 5-3 in Thursday’s series opener, was 11-2 on the road this year with a 2.05 ERA.
For Dickey, making the post-season in the majors is a career first. And he is soaking it up.
“It’s just a rich experience, because I have an interesting history,” he said with a smile. “Especially when I started my career with the Texas Rangers. The first 10 years of my career were with Texas and that’s where I became a knuckleballer — when (manager) Buck Showalter pulled me in the office. That was in 2005 and here we are in 2015, 10 years later and we’re going back in there to play them again and a game where I may get to pitch.
“So it’s a neat narrative, no doubt. And it makes for a real rich experience.”
Dickey has come a long way indeed.
In 2006 as a fledgling Rangers knuckleballer, he gave up six home runs to Detroit to tie the post-1900 major-league record. The only pitcher to concede more homers was Charlie Sweeney of the St. Louis Maroons, who allowed seven against the Detroit Wolverines in 1886.
Dickey gave up eight hits, only two of which weren’t homers. Showalter finally pulled him in the fourth with Texas trailing 7-0.
It was not Dickey’s first setback by any measure. In his first knuckleball outing the year before for the Class AAA Oklahoma City RedHawks, he was battered for 14 hits and 12 runs by the Iowa Cubs in 5 2/3 innings.
Fast forward to 2012 when Dickey won the NL Cy Young Award, becoming the first knuckleballer to claim the honour. That year, he became the Mets first 20-game winner since Frank Viola in 1990, and sixth in team history joining Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden, David Cone and Viola.
This season, Dickey recorded his 100th career win, in his 100th start as a Blue Jay.
In 2015, he led the Jays with 33 starts (tied for second in the AL), 214 1/3 innings pitched (fourth in AL) and 20 quality starts (tied for eighth in the AL).
Dickey lost just one of his last 14 starts, posting a 2.88 earned-run average and .230 opponents’ average. He went 8-2 over his last 16 starts with a 2.78 ERA.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press