Dickey, Arencibia likely won't be strangers
Toronto knuckleballer to have personal backstop, but starter to catch him Monday
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- R.A. Dickey will have a personal catcher this season, and that has been seen as an indication that J.P. Arencibia will get a break from being behind the plate on the days Dickey pitches -- including Opening Day.
Arencibia, though, will be catching Dickey on Monday, when Dickey makes his Blue Jays debut in a Grapefruit League game against the Red Sox. They'll also be teammates on the United States squad at the World Baseball Classic. So it's not as if Dickey and Arencibia won't have some semblance of a working relationship.
Arencibia has voiced his desire that he wants to catch Dickey this season.
"I'm sure he does, and he may," John Gibbons said Thursday. "But he's not making out the lineup. We're going to put the best team out there, what works and what we think is going to work. If it's not J.P., I don't think he's going to have a problem with that. I would be surprised if he did."
The Blue Jays seem more likely to pair Dickey with the backup catcher -- either veteran Henry Blanco or Josh Thole, who caught 27 of Dickey's starts during his Cy Young season last year. That's what makes the backup catcher battle an intriguing storyline in spring camp.
The 41-year-old Blanco is certainly not an unknown commodity at this point, while Thole, with 308 games of experience in the big leagues with the Mets, is obviously not as established. Gibbons said the decision will essentially come down to feel.
"[Performance] is going to be part of it, but it's more than that," Gibbons said. "We'll just watch them both play and see who's the better fit with the team… I like to see the guy who handles the pitchers best, who is the better thrower, who runs a game, you know?"
Dickey's comfort level will also be a factor.
With lengthened camp, Blue Jays taking it light
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Buses for the Blue Jays' practice fields left around 9 a.m. ET Thursday morning. By 11:30 a.m., all the buses had returned and many of the players were either in the showers or out on the street.
Not that other teams are burning the midnight oil this time of year, but the Blue Jays' workouts in this camp have been a bit on the shorter side. And that's by design, especially in a camp lengthened by the World Baseball Classic.
"That's just the way I like to do it," manager John Gibbons said. "It's a long spring anyway, with the guys who are down here earlier. I believe in getting your work done, and they're working hard in PFPs [pitchers' fielding practices] or whatever it is. Get it done and get out of here. No use hanging out at the field all day, because that's when you get tired legs, sore legs and all that."
Gibbons has seen no issues with the effort level of this club. And obviously the players are free to do extra work on their own. On Thursday morning, for example, R.A. Dickey asked a couple of coaches to join him on the main field and work on pickoffs and PFPs. Several other guys were in the weight room or doing cardio or taking cuts in the cages.
"They work hard," Gibbons said. "This day and age, they're in shape when they show up. They're ready to go."
Gibbons hardly sweating Blue Jays' spring results
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays went 24-7 in Grapefruit League play last year, giving them the best spring record in the game.
Obviously, that didn't amount to much in the season proper.
Forgive manager John Gibbons, then, if he doesn't put much emphasis on the record when Grapefruit League play kicks off this weekend.
"You'd like to win and be playing good," Gibbons said. "But the record, I don't think, it means anything, unless history says otherwise. Usually, it's your better Minor League systems that win those games, because it's your younger guys playing later in the game anyway. You'd like to win, but I don't think it means anything in the long run."
Because the results don't matter, Gibbons is expected to let his players roam free on the basepaths this spring in order to get a read on their abilities.
"It gives the guys we don't know an opportunity to show us what they can do," Gibbons said. "But we don't want to be crazy out there, either. We want to be smart from the beginning."