03/03/2016 07:00 EST | Updated 03/04/2017 00:12 EST

Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey feels great after off-season knee surgery

DUNEDIN, Fla. — R.A. Dickey felt something was wrong with his knee after only a handful of starts last season.

The Blue Jays knuckleballer knew it couldn't be good, but he didn't even want to find out how bad it was.

"If I could keep going, I wanted to keep going," Dickey said. "But it got to the point where we needed to figure out what it was so we could take care of it.

"When you get older you don't really want to know all the maladies in your body. You just want to compete. That's what I wanted to do."

Dickey said the pain began four or five starts into the year and an eventual MRI revealed that the 41-year-old right-hander had torn the meniscus in his right knee.

He pitched the rest of the season — leading the Blue Jays rotation with 33 starts — before having surgery to repair it.

The procedure, done in Dickey's native Nashville by Dr. Burton Elrod of the Tennessee Titans, removed part of his meniscus and smoothed out some rough spots on his knee bone.

"It was pretty rough looking," Dickey said. "It was a bucket tear and there were some bone issues as well . . . but I feel fantastic. All things are pointing to being in good shape."

Dickey, who pitched the first two frames of Wednesday's 4-4 tie with the Philadelphia Phillies in Toronto's spring training home opener, said his body felt great after the outing.

He got through the first inning without issue — inducing a flyout, a pop-out and a ground-out — then gave up two hits and a run in the second.

Dickey finished last season 11-11 with a 3.91 earned-run average, but he really turned on his game in the second half, winning eight of his last nine decisions from July 23 to Sept. 25.

He says he never got to the point where he felt he had to miss an outing.

"There were days where I'd come in after a start and my knee would be the size of your head," Dickey said. "I would be like: 'Well, we gotta get that out of there someway and (Blue Jays head athletic trainer) George Poulis was able to do it.'

"We were able to tee it up every fifth day. I mean, you gotta be able to do some of that when you pitch a lot of innings."

While the knee injury didn't appear to effect his on-field performance, it did take its toll on Dickey's body in other ways.

Not being able to do his typical workouts, Dickey estimates he put on 12 pounds over the course of the year. He's back to a more normal weight now.

"I shed some of that in hopes of really being able to be consistent," he said. "The lighter I am, the more I feel in control of my body. My core strength's better and that helps me stay together coming down the slope of a mound.

"Twelve pounds is pretty significant for me. A lot of guys come into spring saying they're in the best shape of their lives, so I'm not saying that. I'm saying I've been intentional about trying to lose weight, and put on the right kind of weight, in order to be better as a baseball player."

Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press