The first patsy up was Adam Lind and the ball went whaha-whoops-whee past him.
Brett Lawrie stood in for his cuts: way behind on the swing, way ahead on the swing, then — completely discombobulating — a fat fastball that froze the hitter. “It went straight down the pipe!”
Mark DeRosa, who’s had previous close-ups of this freaky thing as a teammate from years ago, made a gallant effort, ripping what would have been a two-base line drive, but the next offering was wickedly mystifying, both dead-spun and hard. Even the man on the hill felt need to apologize. “It’s too early for that. I’m sorry.”
There were chuckles and snorts around the cage, with much shaking of heads. They’d each just been made to look the fool, in front of an amused spring training gallery. “I went to winter ball all winter to get my timing down and then my first day I have to face R.A.,” cracked Lind. Adding, in case anyone had forgotten: “Cy Young winner.”
That’s R.A. Dickey, Mr. Knuckleball to you, the most accomplished practitioner of his particular pitch-craft and on Sunday morning his eccentric specialty was on display here, first time facing live hitters. After all the talk, weeks of it since the crème de la National League moundsmen was lassoed via trade, the knuckler made its much-anticipated debut for the Blue Jays.
It arrived totally as advertised: confounding, a bugger to catch — already there are wagers on how many passed balls J.P. Arencibia will rack up — and darn near unhittable.
Between the practice hill and the mound out in Diamond No. 4 at Toronto’s spring training complex, Dickey threw 40 pitches. “I could have thrown 100, it wouldn’t have mattered.”