February 26, 2013

Jays top Sox with a focus on knucklers

R.A. Dickey allows two runs for Toronto, while Steven Wright throws two solid innings for Boston.

The Associated Press

DUNEDIN, Fla. – The knuckleball fraternity was in full force for Monday's game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox.

NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey gave up two runs and four hits in his Toronto spring training debut while fellow knuckleballer Steven Wright pitched two scoreless innings for a Boston split squad in a 4-2 win over the Blue Jays.

"You don't see that too often," Toronto Manager John Gibbons said of seeing two starters tossing knucklers.

Wright, a minor leaguer, gave up two hits and struck out three. Former Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who is working with Wright, was at the game.

"Just a little nervous because you want to do your best in general, but to have guys with the keen eye for the knuckleball (watching)," Wright said. "But once I got out there I felt pretty good."

Wright and Dickey have communicated by phone and text in the past. Wright sent a message to Dickey when he arrived for Monday's game.

"He texted me right before the game," Dickey said. "There just wasn't time to connect, so I'll have to connect with him, hopefully, when he pitches in the big leagues for the Red Sox."

Dickey was planning to text his Boston counterpart postgame.

"I think he pitched really well," Dickey said. "I'm pulling for him, of course. I know how hard it is."

Both pitchers seek advice from Wakefield. Dickey said he faced Wakefield a couple times as a reliever in games the former Red Sox standout started.

"He always has a good insight, so it's good to get with him when I can, especially to see me pitch live," Dickey said. "He can tell me if he sees something that's out of whack or not."

Red Sox Manager John Farrell, who moved from Toronto to Boston during the offseason after managing the Blue Jays in 2011 and 2012, was roundly booed by fans when his name was announced during the pregame starting lineup introductions. This was the first time Farrell has faced his former team.

"I appreciate that people might have differing opinions," Farrell said.

"All I can do is go about my work day in and day out. People are going to form their own impressions. I can't control that. I thoroughly enjoyed the time there."

RAYS 6, RED SOX (SS) 3: Jamey Wright's bid to make the Tampa Bay Rays his 10th major league team began with a scoreless inning.

The 38-year-old right-hander retired the only three batters he faced during Monday's 6-3 victory over a Boston split squad at Port Charlotte, Fla. He struck out Dustin Pedroia and Shane Victorino, then escaped without allowing a hit when third baseman Ryan Roberts made a diving stop on Jonny Gomes' hard grounder and scrambled to his feet to throw to first to end the third inning.

Pedroia homered in the first off Rays starter Alex Cobb. Newly-acquired Mike Carp had a RBI double in his debut for the Red Sox.

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