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WBC should be preview of Dickey-Arencibia battery

The SportsXchange

The Blue Jays lost nine players from spring training to the World Baseball Classic.

Besides the three Blue Jays players on the Canadian team, including major-league third baseman Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays followers will be eager to follow the U.S. team to see how Toronto's opening day starter, R.A. Dickey, does while throwing his knuckleball to the team's No. 1 catcher, J.P. Arencibia.

One of the debates during spring training at Dunedin, Fla., has been who will catch Dickey once the season begins.

The feeling is that Dickey will have a personal catcher, and the Blue Jays have two on the major-league roster who caught Dickey with the Mets, Henry Blanco and Josh Thole. But Arencibia also would like to catch Dickey, the National League Cy Young Award winner in 2012.

After throwing to Arencibia in his final outing with Toronto before joining the U.S. team, Dickey said he expected Team USA manager Joe Torre would have Arencibia behind the plate when he pitches in the WBC.

"I anticipate him catching me and I'm pretty sure that's what Joe Torre is thinking," Dickey said. "I don't want to speak for him, but he knows we've been working hard together, and that first game I'm sure he's going to want me to feel comfortable. And throwing to (Joe) Mauer or (Jonathan) Lucroy having not had any experience with me doesn't seem like the smartest decision. But that's up to him."

Dickey said his early outings with Arencibia have been going well.

"And he knows as the spring goes along it's going to get better and better," Dickey said. "But he's been great, and I've been really pleased with the way that he is receiving the ball, and he's not mishandling very many. A good one (knuckleball) is a hard one for anybody to receive, so you have to have some grace when it comes to that. He's done a heck of a job."

Dickey said it does not matter to him whether he has a personal catcher because the catchers who are going to make the team have caught him before and it was a "non-issue."

"I'm comfortable with all of them," Dickey said. "So really it gives Gibby (manager John Gibbons) a lot of latitude to be able to put in there who he thinks is the best fit for that day. I think one of the beauties of being on a team like this is that the manager wants you to be involved. He's talked to me about it and I've told him the same thing, it doesn't matter to me."

Gibbons said no decision has been made.

"We've got our ideas, but we'll see," Gibbons said. "I'll watch it (WBC) on TV and see how it looks."

There will be more pressure in the WBC games than the normal spring training games, so they should give a better indication.

Having someone else catch Dickey could be a way of working days off into the season for Arencibia. But the opening day lineup is just that; the way it looks does not have to be the way it will be the rest of the season.

If Arencibia and Dickey continue to work well in the WBC, why not let Arencibia start opening day at least with Dickey pitching? Arencibia has had some opening day success with the bat. And then if someone else is to be the personal catcher for Dickey, he can be worked into the schedule as the season progresses, giving Arencibia a break.
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