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J.P. Arencibia struggles with R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball, Blue Jays drop opener to Indians

Apr 2, 2013, 10:05 PM EDT

arencibia getty Getty Images

There’s a buzz about the new-look Blue Jays in Toronto, as evidenced by the high-energy sell-out crowd of 48,857 that packed Rogers Centre for Tuesday night’s opener against the Indians.

But what that crowd witness wasn’t very pretty.

J.P. Arencibia had a hard time with R.A. Dickey‘s knuckler, allowing three passed balls as the Indians raced to a 4-1 lead before Dickey departed at the end of the sixth inning. Dickey walked four batters and surrendered five hits, and Arencibia’s mistakes ensured that those baserunners proved costly.

Cleveland was able to maintain that 4-1 lead.

The Blue Jays acquired catcher Josh Thole from the Mets in this winter’s seven-player Dickey trade but sent him to Triple-A Buffalo last week. If Arencibia doesn’t improve next time out and current backup Henry Blanco can’t handle Dickey’s signature pitch either, Thole may have to be added to the 25-man roster.

Arencibia has 41 home runs in his last 231 games, but he has never been much of a defender.

  1. Glenn - Apr 2, 2013 at 10:17 PM

    Welcome to the world of a knuckle ball pitcher. I loved Tim Wakefield as a Sox fan, but the peripheral headaches were tough to take at times. When they are on, like Dickey last year, it can be a beautiful thing.

    • doctorfootball - Apr 2, 2013 at 10:23 PM

      Didn’t the Red Sox have a similar situation with Wakefield? I remember the Sox bringing trading for a catcher that had recently released because their current catcher had problems with the knuckle-ball.

      • tfbuckfutter - Apr 2, 2013 at 10:30 PM

        They had to reacquire Doug Mirabelli because Josh Bard couldn’t handle Wakefield.

        That was always one of the drawbacks to Wakefield is, aside from the inconsistency, it always inserted Mirabelli in the lineup.

      • gmouser777 - Apr 2, 2013 at 10:50 PM

        Having a special catcher assigned to a knuckle baller isn’t actually that much of an issue. Dickey’s never started more than 33 games (last year), which leaves the primary catcher starting in 129 games… which is a normal load for a catcher.

        Planning every 5th day off for a catcher can actually be a good thing.

      • tfbuckfutter - Apr 2, 2013 at 11:33 PM

        gmouser77, it CAN be, especially if R.A. Dickey remains an ace….

        The problem is, though, that knuckleballers are so inconsistent and you are now married to an offensive downgrade every time your (usually) most erratic pitcher is on the mound.

        So yes, Doug Mirabelli getting all his starts in Wakefield’s games was good when Wakefield was giving up 1 or 2 runs across 7 or 8 innings….but terrible when he would have a 5 run inning because it is that much harder to overcome.

      • unclemosesgreen - Apr 3, 2013 at 8:53 AM

        Not only did they bring back Doug Mirabelli on an emergency basis to catch Wake, but Dougie famously had a police escort to Fenway that fine day.

  2. burm61 - Apr 2, 2013 at 10:18 PM

    Too bad the passed balls didn’t affect anything in the game and no mention of the Tribe’s impressive defense and Asdrubal with a helluva opener?

    • Kevin Gillman - Apr 2, 2013 at 10:25 PM

      Nope, because the Indians are supposed to finish .500, and the Jays have a chance at the World Series DAMMIT!!

    • paperlions - Apr 2, 2013 at 10:26 PM

      Except for leading the first two runs. A passed ball allowed runners to move up from 1st & 2nd to 2nd & 3rd, then the hitter grounded out to SS….what could have been an inning ending double play. Instead a run scored on the ground out and another scored on a single by the next batter. But yeah, they didn’t affect anything else.

    • Mark - Apr 2, 2013 at 10:33 PM

      Obviously you didn’t watch the game because the passed balls did lead to a pair of runs being scored.

    • jaysjunkie - Apr 3, 2013 at 1:44 AM

      Didn’t affect anything in the game? The passed balls contributed greatly to two of the Indians’ runs, which is pretty significant in a game that ended 4-1. That being said, the Indians’ defense was tight and Masterson, especially, was the biggest reason they won.

      • Mark - Apr 3, 2013 at 6:51 AM

        Masterson allowing 4 walks and hitting a batter wasn’t exactly a great performance. Their D really saved him.

  3. takavl - Apr 2, 2013 at 10:26 PM

    Cue the police escort/Mirabelli jokes…

    See also: Cash, Kevin. Also Kottaras, George. Oh, don’t forget VMart, who was showing promise, not to mention Salty. Are you all ready for a trade? Get Thole back up and J.P. on the phone with any of the above-mentioned. Or maybe Gary Tuck, which rhymes with, oh, I dunno, good luck…

    Where are all those smartass Blue Jay fans and their comments? XOXO

    • jaysjunkie - Apr 3, 2013 at 1:22 PM


  4. thebadguyswon - Apr 2, 2013 at 10:26 PM

    John Gibbons is a damned idiot. They have Blanco there specifically because he’s caught Dickey. So he starts Arencibia.

    • mathieug79 - Apr 3, 2013 at 7:18 AM

      Its the first game of the year. Why would we sit our #1 Catcher if he shows that he can catch Dickey? Anyways I’m guess Blanco will catch the rest of the season with maybe Arencibia getting a couple of starts.

      You don’t win a lot of games when you only score 1 run. There’s still 161 games remaining, THE BLUE JAYS were never meant to go 162-0.

      • Francisco (FC) - Apr 3, 2013 at 9:13 AM

        Why would we sit our #1 Catcher if he shows that he can catch Dickey?

        I find it cute how the Blue Jays still think Arencibia is a starting catcher.

      • mathieug79 - Apr 3, 2013 at 12:23 PM

        He is our #1 Catcher, I don’t care what how you feel about it. NO WAY Henry Blanco is a #1. So just stating the facts!

      • thebadguyswon - Apr 3, 2013 at 11:23 AM

        When did he show he could catch Dickey?

      • mathieug79 - Apr 3, 2013 at 12:17 PM

        Well for the management to say he can catch the knuckleball, and for RA to have confidence in him, he had to show someone he could.

      • Francisco (FC) - Apr 3, 2013 at 12:52 PM

        From my POV Arencibia is the #2 Catcher and Blanco is the #3 Catcher. The #1 slot is empty (It was supposed to be filled in by Travis D’Arnaud, alas…)

      • mathieug79 - Apr 3, 2013 at 1:11 PM

        I agree with you but We’ll sign Brian McCann in the offseason. 😉 haha jk

  5. dirtyharry1971 - Apr 2, 2013 at 10:40 PM

    Meet the new Bluejays……Same as the old Bluejays….

    • nbjays - Apr 3, 2013 at 7:44 AM

      People, please don’t give dirtyharry more thumbs-up than thumbs-down… you’ll only encourage him.

      • dirtyharry1971 - Apr 3, 2013 at 10:03 AM

        actually the more thumbs down i get the more encouraged i get so its just the opposite. I want to tick off people here and hopefully see these threads shutdown for good.

      • nbjays - Apr 3, 2013 at 5:49 PM

        I’m thinking YOU are the one who would get shut down first as being a total asshole on a forum rarely results in anything but a ban-hammer for the offending party. No one is asking you to be here and if the only reason you are here is to piss off everyone else (and you are stupid enough to admit it), then I hope you get banned. Did someone from HBT piss in your corn flakes, or what?

    • saints97 - Apr 3, 2013 at 8:45 AM

      Rasmus gets hit season started off right with a hat trick. LaRussa’s managing style must still be giving him fits.

  6. monsor - Apr 2, 2013 at 10:53 PM

    Dear Jays fans. I am a Mets fan and I know Thole, Dickey, the trade for both, and baseball in general somewhat well. I personally blame your first loss on your manager. The whole reason Thole was thrown in on that trade was to handle Dickey. Blanco can handle Dickey better than most, but not better than Thole. The knock on Josh is that he can’t throw out runners or call a good game…which is difficult anyway with a knuck pitcher. So, if you don’t feel safe with Thole, then use Blanco who also has a bit better stick than Josh. That’s the most logical decision. But your manager leaves Thole off the roster AND decided to use use someone who has never caught a knuck in his life? Wow. And R.A.’s knuck is like your normal knuck. It comes in at mid 80’s and in the lights of a turf/dome stadium, is most likely much harder to pick up. Of course, who am I…just someone who played ball for 20 years. What do I know.

    • unclemosesgreen - Apr 3, 2013 at 8:55 AM

      The only way to practice catching R.A. Dickey is to actually catch R.A. Dickey. No one has ever suceeded at this level throwing it as hard as he does.

  7. monsor - Apr 2, 2013 at 10:54 PM

    It isn’t your normal knuck…I mean. Damn iPad

  8. scoocha - Apr 3, 2013 at 12:40 AM

    Some interesting facts from last season:

    Dickey vs. playoff teams 6-4 4.20 ERA 1.30 WHIP
    Dickey vs. non-playoff teams 14-2 1.89 ERA 0.91 WHIP

    Might be rough this year in AL. After 2 years this deal will be a mistake.

    Also, why are passed balls credited as unearned runs for knuckleballers? This pitch isn’t easy to handle, so why would the pitcher automatically benefit from throwing it. For normal pitchers I agree, but no one is forcing Dickey to throw this yet his numbers look better if passed balls occur.

    • Mark - Apr 3, 2013 at 7:00 AM

      Some more interesting facts:

      Last year Dickey struggled against:

      Atlanta Braves (92 wRC+) – 8.80 ERA over 3 starts.
      Reds (93 wRC+) – 6.00 ERA over 2 starts
      NYY (113 wRC+) – 7.50 ERA over 1 start.

      So he got rocked by 2 significantly below average offences in Atlanta/Cincinnati (who ranked 23/24th in the majors in wRC+) and the Yankees. No other team hit him hard, with the Phils coming in with a 3.43 ERA as his next worst opponent.

      It’s not like he was bad against all playoff teams, as he dominated Baltimore & Tampa (no runs allowed), had a 1.15 ERA against STL and a 3.25 ERA against Washington. So funny enough, the playoff teams with superior lineups actually struggled more against Dickey, with NYY as an exception.

      And Arencibia got a passed ball because the ones that got away were not that difficult to catch. Arencibia is just an awful receiver behind the plate.

      • Mark - Apr 3, 2013 at 7:04 AM

        Whoops, Tampa wasn’t a playoff team last year. Feels like they’re always in the playoffs cause they put out a good team every year. So put that in the he did well against other AL East teams instead…

      • unclemosesgreen - Apr 3, 2013 at 8:57 AM

        “the ones that got away were not that difficult to catch…”

        Congratulations on being the clubhouse leader for ridiculous comment of the week.

      • unclemosesgreen - Apr 3, 2013 at 8:58 AM

        6 starts sprinkled between 3 teams has less than no statistical or predictive value going forward. So much to dislike about your writing.

      • scoocha - Apr 3, 2013 at 9:43 AM

        Maybe not 6 starts but my stats referenced 13 starts. That’s greater than 33% of his starts – which is significant.
        Nice work on the stats, Mark, I like you’re thinking.

      • Mark - Apr 3, 2013 at 11:20 PM

        “Congratulations on being the clubhouse leader for ridiculous comment of the week.”

        The pot just called the kettle black.

        “So much to dislike about your writing.”

        Don’t worry, the feeling is mutual.

  9. ningenito78 - Apr 3, 2013 at 12:45 AM

    That wasn’t even major league quality catching. I understand the knuckeball is hard to catch but Jesus Christ. You had the last month to evaluate the catchers to see who could catch Dickey and THAT’S what you throw out there? Thole absolutely would have caught a better game. That’s the hidden secret about carrying a knuckleballer. You need a specialized catcher that can sometimes eat a valuable roster spot but it comes with the territory.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Apr 3, 2013 at 2:44 AM

      With that oversized glove I would’ve caught a better game than that.

  10. jaysjunkie - Apr 3, 2013 at 1:47 AM

    Yeah, J.P.’s performance was not pretty. Really dull game, too, especially with all the built up anticipation.

    Geddy Lee throwing out the first pitch was badass, though.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Apr 3, 2013 at 2:35 AM

      Expect anything different? Too much hype. Yup, Geddy was probably the highlight.

  11. gregbeau - Apr 3, 2013 at 6:28 AM

    Jays may or may not win it all this year, but the organization, their owner-broadcaster and the Toronto media lead the league in hype.

  12. janessa31888 - Apr 3, 2013 at 7:13 AM

    Last year on opening day, Justin pitched much better but Perez blew the game. This time it was the opposite: shaky start, but great bullpen. And a huge cheer for the defense. Tough day for the Jays catcher.

  13. nbjays - Apr 3, 2013 at 7:47 AM

    Ah, the knuckleball… pitchers can’t control it, batters can’t hit it, catchers can’t catch it, and umpires can’t call it.

    That said, I hope we have seen JP’s last futile attempt to catch Dickey, and will soon see either Blanco or Thole as his personal catcher. Lord knows that Arencibia has enough trouble catching pitches that DON’T float all over the place.

  14. albertmn - Apr 3, 2013 at 9:44 AM

    Pretty sure the difficulties of the knuckler is why Dickey didn’t really get a fair shake with the Twins. Mauer didn’t want to have to try to catch it. Dickey came into one game in relief with the Twins and was told by the manager to not throw any knucklers, which pretty much handcuffs a guy that otherwise doesn’t have major league stuff. A manager has to realize that you need to carry a catcher on roster just to catch his games if you have a knuckleball pitcher. At least when the pitcher is a starter, it is easier to work around. If that pitcher is a reliever, then it could mess up your lineup.

  15. abaird2012 - Apr 3, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    They need a catcher who can really handle Dickey … (ducks to avoid anticipated barrage of rotten fruit).

  16. Mark - Apr 3, 2013 at 11:21 PM

    What’s the difference between a cold and Dickey’s knuckleball? Arencibia could at least catch a cold.

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