Dickey Knuckles Up

The Mets took a flier and signed veteran right-hander R.A. Dickey prior to the 2010 season. What began as something of a roll of the dice has turned into a good bet as Dickey assumes a rotation spot in 2011. Dickey has exceeded expectations and now the Mets and their fans are hoping the success will continue.

It's was a very enjoyable offseason for R.A. Dickey. Not only did the knuckleballer have his fourth child on the way, but the 36-year-old sat back knowing that he did not have to worry about a job this spring. That allowed Dickey to go into spring training with a much different mindset.

"It's going to be a lot different because it will allow me to do things a lot different than I did in the past," he said. "(Not having to compete for a job) will give me the opportunity not to be results oriented and really work on my craft, which will be a real blessing. It's something I've looked forward to. It will help me in the long run."

It's bigger than you think because last year, Dickey seemed to be cursed in Port St. Lucie. The high winds on the Treasure Coast wreaked havoc on his knuckleball, which caused him to be an early cut. Yet, with an 11-9 season and 2.84 ERA after being called up in May, the knuckleballer has nothing to worry about except staying healthy and preparing for the season. In fact, he will be in the front half of the Mets rotation after Mike Pelfrey and possibly in front of Jon Niese.

"I think now, there's a big enough body of work for the front office and powers that be not to worry because they know it's just part of spring training and getting ready for the season," Dickey said. "The weather conditions in Port St. Lucie last season weren't ideal. In all honesty, I was in knuckleball shape. It took me to the middle of April. Now I will have the opportunity to go (into the season) in shape."

Dickey expects a very different spring training, not only for himself, but also the Mets in general. With a new manager, Dickey sees "an energy" from the club that was not prevalent in 2010.

"There are some boys down the road who won't agree with me, but I think there are pieces in place for this team to be a contender," Dickey said. "There are lot of things that are a part of it. I think clubhouse culture is part of it. You need guys who step up and have career years, sure, but that's on every championship team. There's a renewed sense of energy."

Combine Dickey's optimism with the return of a healthy Jose Reyes and a healthier Carlos Beltran and Dickey sees better consistency within the Mets.

"One of the things that will help this year is that you will have a healthy Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes," he said. "I think this year there will be an advantage of have those guys rip roaring (from the start of the season.)"

As for Collins, Dickey likes what he sees from his new manager so far.

"I really enjoyed getting to know him," said the knuckleballer. "It's going to be nice to see him getting to us as the spring goes on and us getting to know him. I sure respect him as a man and a baseball mind. I love his intensity and there is a different kind of energy around this team."

As for his own craft, Dickey feels last year he came into his own. Because knuckleballers are so rare, he can throw a less erratic pitch because of the velocity. The veteran hurle feels that 2010 was just another step.

"Consistency. It's my hope that last year wasn't an anomaly," Dickey said. "Anyone who picks up a newspaper or writes a blog can that this was a highpoint on my graph. I hope that will see a bit better (in 2011)."

"It's all been very organic for me. Part of my journey was part of seeing what a consistent knuckleball looks like. There were days that I threw a knuckleball off the gym wall. Last year was not a surprise, but more of part of the journey."

It's a journey that will continue next month in New York. He feels last year's Mets lost focus during the second half. Focus is all Dickey has to worry about, knowing that the National League may be better prepared to handle his knuckleball. For that though, he's ready and knows all he has to do is continue his growth.

"I've never been one to sit on laurels and be satisfied. But from an adjustment standpoint is that I know how to do it. I need to (trust my stuff) and remain consistent. Everyone has the clunker from time to time, though, just ask Roy Halladay."

It's been a good offseason indeed.

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