With camp opening this past week and players funneling into Florida Auto Exchange Stadium to begin the 2013 season, there is an excitement in the air.
One of the players fans have been most excited to see was new ace R.A. Dickey. The man with the mystic knuckle-ball is already being looked upon as the staff savior and the debates are raging over whether or not Dickey can translate his success to the American League East. Most feel that it will be a rougher ride for him in baseball’s most grueling division, but they expect him to be a much needed improvement nonetheless.
Still, there is one mystery surrounding the arrival of Dickey, and that is the determination of who will be the primary backstop when the ace is on the mound.
J.P. Arencibia has been vocal about wanting that gig. After Dickey’s acquisition, the two trained together in Nashville, Tennessee, and Arencibia caught Dickey’s first bullpen session in Dunedin and will continue to see him when the two play for Team USA during the World Baseball Classic. Obviously, Arencibia is taking it seriously and trying to acclimate himself to the knuckle-ball. That said, J.P. is not exactly known for his defensive work behind the plate and the Blue Jays may look for a qualified back-up to handle Dickey’s starts.
Thole was acquired in the Dickey trade with the Mets, primarily for his experience working with Dickey. The Blue Jays thought so much of having Thole on the roster with Dickey that they signed him to a two-year deal this winter, rather than go year-to-year through arbitration with the backstop. Thole’s ability to hit Major League pitching is not quite up to par with Arencibia – he lacks J.P.’s power component – but his familiarity with the knuckle-ball already puts him ahead of the curve. That said, Thole also has minor league options available, and the Blue Jays may take advantage of that.
Which moves us toward Henry Blanco. Another former Mets catcher who has caught Dickey, Blanco is a non-roster invitee to camp this spring and the Blue Jays are said to be considering him as the back-up at this stage. The 41-year-old Blanco is a career back-up who last appeared in more that 74 games in 2004. The career .227 hitter has a .994 career fielding percentage as a battery mate, so he could become this year’s Jeff Mathis.
So Blue Jays faithful, which of these three candidates do you think will become R.A. Dickey’s primary catcher when camp breaks?