SPORTS

Dickey knuckleball dancing against Orioles, testing Martin as he learns pitch

03/06/2015 05:21 EST | Updated 05/06/2015 05:59 EDT
DUNEDIN, Fla. - R.A. Dickey's dancing knuckleball made life tough for both the Baltimore Orioles and Jays catcher Russell Martin on Friday afternoon.

But Dickey and Martin, who has embarked on a crash course in catching the knuckler, both saw progress in their collaboration on a rain-delayed spring start that drew an announced crowd of 5,013 on a grey day at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

Dickey struck out three in two scoreless innings that saw six balls squib off Martin's glove. The misses did not come at a cost, however.

"I had a real good one today," said Dickey.

"Sometimes it just feels good in your hand," he added. "You're able to throw it without rotation and it moves all over the place. Today was just one of those days I had a good feel for it in my hand. I was throwing it for strikes."

Chris Colabello hit a two-run homer for the Jays off Orioles starter Mike Wright as Toronto (2-2) edged Baltimore 5-4. Chris Dickerson scored the winning run in the eighth on a throwing error by pitcher Steve Johnson, whose throw to second went astray thanks in part to a hard slide by Dwight Smith Jr.

Alejandro De Aza had a two-run homer run for the Orioles (1-3) off Liam Hendriks.

Martin being able to catch Dickey is one of the dominos that needs to fall before other decisions can be made in the Jays lineup. Having to carry Josh Thole, who has been Dickey's personal catcher in recent years, takes Martin's bat out of the lineup and costs a valuable roster spot with catcher-DH Dioner Navarro still in the mix.

Martin was using a knuckleball glove he got four days ago. The big mitt has spent time in the microwave in his bid to work it in.

"I feel comfortable behind the plate," said the US$82-million catcher. "Obviously it's still a short sample but every time I go out there, I feel a little bit better."

Friday marked the first time Martin had caught Dickey in a real game situation, although the two worked together in an intra-squad contest Monday and have been near inseparable in training be it playing catch or combining on bullpen sessions.

Dickey said there was only one missed ball that he thought Martin might have had a chance of getting.

"He's definitely got all the tools. It's just a matter of working together."

Dickey also appreciates Martin's approach.

"One of his traits that's very valuable is that he wants the best for the other guy. And that shines through for him. That's a good leadership attribute."

Slated to start at 1:05 p.m. ET, the game was delayed until 2:47 due to a downpour that brought out the tarp. In the interim, star outfielder Jose Bautista was scratched due to right hamstring tightness.

Dickey opened by striking out De Aza and Everth Cabrera on seven pitches — six strikes and a foul ball — before walking Chris Parmelee on four straight balls, two of which eluded Martin. The catcher lost the handle on two more pitches before Dickey struck out former Jay Travis Snider in an eight-pitch at-bat to end the inning.

Martin lost the handle on two more balls as former Toronto catcher J.P. Arencibia opened the second inning but Dickey registered three outs in short order to became the first Jays starter this spring to complete two innings.

Drew Hutchinson followed Dickey with two more scoreless innings.

Baltimore opted to leave its big names at home after a 5-0 win Thursday night over the Jays in Sarasota. Toronto brought out its starters for the home outing.

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