BALTIMORE – R.A. Dickey feels far better heading into his start Tuesday against the Baltimore Orioles than he did before his previous start, and is optimistic the neck and upper back tightness that cut short his outing against the Chicago White Sox last week is behind him.
“I think we’ve given it enough rest and given it enough treatment to where I’m optimistic,” the Toronto Blue Jays ace said Monday before their series opener at Camden Yards. “I backed off the bullpen this week just to make sure and give it as much time to heal as possible.
“It’s responded well to that, so I don’t feel like there’s going to be any setbacks.”
Dickey said he never worried that he might need to miss a start, which wasn’t the case against the White Sox, when he was uncertain of his status leading up to the contest after first feeling the area on his right side begin to seize up April 13 against the Kansas City Royals.
Despite that, he was throwing a gem when he visibly winced on a pitch in the sixth inning. He finished out the frame before calling it a night after six shutout innings during which he allowed two hits and a walk while striking out six.
The trouble last time built up as "a progressive thing, getting up, sitting down, cooling off, heating up, and it tightened up," said Dickey. "I probably could have kept going another inning, but it just didn't make any sense if I wanted to get to this place for my start (Tuesday) and be at full capacity."
This time around, Dickey only played catch rather than pitching a bullpen to let the affected area heal. A potential hurdle might be Tuesday's weather, as the forecast calls for a high of 13 C and low of 8 C under cloudy skies, although he says he can counter the cold by hanging in the clubhouse between innings to keep warm and loose.
Beyond that, the knuckleballer says, "I don't really know what to anticipate. If it's like last start, then I'll have to tiptoe around it a little bit. If it's healed better than it did between the last start to that start, I might be just fine. I won't know until I get out there and start the adrenaline going and all that.
"It's like a knot and then that knot emits pain," added Dickey, who pitched last year with a torn abdomen and two years ago with a torn plantar fascia (tissue that supports the foot's arch). "I don't know that I would consider it a stabbing sensation, but you know it's there. Hopefully that's behind us."
BONI'S BACK: With Maicer Izturis fighting some tightness in his hamstring, manager John Gibbons inserted Emilio Bonifacio back in to the starting lineup at second base.
Bonifacio, who's had some tough times at the position so far, hasn't played at second since April 12 at Kansas City, and hasn't started since April 18 against the White Sox, when he was in centre field.
WAIVER GAMES: The Blue Jays traded outfielder Casper Wells to the Oakland Athletics for cash considerations, getting some return for the waiver claim who dressed for three games in Kansas City but didn't see any action.
The Blue Jays designated Wells for assignment last week when they purchased the contract of Ramon Ortiz, whom they needed for bullpen protection and subsequently remained with the team when Sergio Santos was placed on the disabled list with soreness in his lower right triceps.
Alex Burnett, who was designated for assignment when Wells was claimed, joined the Orioles on Monday and will likely remain with the club until Wednesday, when leading possibilities to fill a TBA spot in their rotation include Freddy Garcia and Zach Britton.
CITO vs. COX: Cito Gaston will take on Bobby Cox when they serve as managers for the May 25 Hall of Fame Classic featuring Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Phil Niekro and 20 other former players.
The exhibition game will be held May 25 as part of Cooperstown's Memorial Day weekend festivities.
Gaston served as hitting coach with the Blue Jays under Bobby Cox and two later met as opposing managers in the 1992 World Series, when Toronto beat Atlanta in six games.