Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 10/25/14
Before R.A. Dickey struck out five Giants over 8.1 innings of scoreless ball in early June, we sat down for a brief second to talk about his health, his knuckler, his new situation, and what he’s learned this year. Eno Sarris: The last time we talked a while back, you were having a great season that had something to do with your fast knuckleball. You were throwing those more than ever, and hitting top speeds with them. I took a look recently and it looks like you’re throwing them a little slower this year. Does that have something to do with your back? R.A. Dickey: I would think so. I started the year not healthy and that’s contributed to me not being able to step on the gas a little bit more. Recently, over the last week and a half, I’ve felt better than I have all year. Sarris: What exactly is wrong? Dickey: I’ve had an upper back issue, whenever I extend, it would bite me pretty good. I’ve had to back it down. Sarris: That’s interesting, because you played through a torn plantar… Dickey: And I had a hernia, and then against the Royals early on this year I did this thing to my back, and the WBC was this year. Sarris: But this has been worse. Dickey: This is worse because it affects the way I throw. Mechanically, I’m having to alter things to try to avoid the pain of it and still make my starts. Sarris: Why don’t you just take 15? Dickey: Because I can still muster through six or seven innings. Even though I haven’t had my best knuckleball, I still have seven or eight quality starts. So I can still give something. Just a matter of not being as dominant as I was because I’m missing a weapon or two. It’s feeling better, though, this last week. Sarris: How does this relate to, you called it 75% effort vs when you were a conventional thrower… Did this remind you of your age? The thing about knuckleballers is “oh, they can pitch forever.” Dickey: I don’t know if it reminds me of my age, as I look to my left and right, I see far younger players on the DL for far lesser things. Sarris: Touche. Dickey: So it’s hard or me to equate this with just my age. What’s much more important to me is to take the ball every fifth inning and be counted on for 200 innings. You have to be able to take the ball when you’re not feeling great. The guys that can’t really pitch unless they are 100% that don’t ever get to those milestones. Do I feel old? Not really. Am I old? Sarris: Sorry about that. Dickey: No that’s okay, that’s a completely valid question. But the answer is that I don’t think it’s a contributing factor right now. Sarris: I guess what I meant is, did it make you feel more like a conventional pitcher again? Dickey: No, because if I was a conventional pitcher, with this injury, I’d be out. There would be no way. I couldn’t pitch. In fact, in Texas I had a similar injury to my rhomboid in 2004 and I was out for more than a month. Sarris: There you go. Dickey: Tangible proof. Sarris: So you’re still adding value. Dickey: Exactly. Sarris: Has it made you think about offseason regimens? Dickey: It makes me think about the WBC a little bit. I was in the World Baseball Classic and having to ramp up everything a little early might have, you know… but as far as my offseason workouts, I felt really good going into spring training and it just got interrupted for about a month for WBC stuff. Sarris: No matter what, it means your season is a lot longer. Dickey: Yeah, and another thing too, this is equivalent, for me, to 2011, when we had such a cold start to the season. The weather has been horrible. Real cold, not much humidity. I like humid, warm, and it’s been pretty cold. Sarris: So what about the dome? We were all trying to figure out what you might do in the dome. Dickey: I don’t have a big enough sample size. The dome is like… against the White Sox? I gave up two hits in six innings, and struck out seven. Sarris: What about the idea that you’re sending it out there with a half- or quarter-turn and you’re waiting for the wind, or natural effects, to push it one direction or another? Isn’t there less wind in the dome? Dickey: There’s still a current moving, it’s not like a vacuum. It’s like in Tampa Bay or Toronto, it’s the same, they still have to pump air conditioner or heat and you’re getting some circulation, and it’s a lot more manageable, because it’s always consistent. You’re not going to get 20mph wind gusts. Sarris: What about today? Dickey: Oh it’s alright, I’ve actually pitched well here usually. Sarris: Nice to talk to you again. Dickey: Likewise.
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