Feb 18, 2013; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays catcher Josh Thole (30) during photo day at Florida Auto Exchange Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays Gibbons: No Knuckle-Ball For Arencibia

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We are just a few days into Spring Training, but it did not take long for the John Gibbons to put aside one of the few controversies the team faced during camp. Rather than let the questions fester too much longer, Gibbons declared that it is likely that either Josh Thole or Henry Blanco will serve as primary catcher for R.A. Dickey when the knuckle-baller takes the mound for the Toronto Blue Jays, according to the Associated Press.

The decision was not a complete mystery, as most assumed that Thole or Blanco, both of whom have experience catching Dickey, would get the nod as his personal catcher. However, starting catcher J.P. Arencibia has been vocal about his desire to be the guy, even going as far as to work-out with Dickey during the offseason in order to get more comfortable with the knuckle-ball.

By making the decision this early in camp, it allows Arencibia to focus on learning to work with Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, in addition to his relationship with incumbents Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero. It may hurt Arencibia at first, but in the long run, it is actually right decision, both for Dickey and for the club.

Looking back at past examples, it is not without precedent. The relationship between a knuckle-baller and his personal catcher is a tough one to create. Once you establish a good tandem, it is tough to replace it.

The Boston Red Sox were a prime example of this. For years, Doug Mirabelli was Tim Wakefield’s personal catcher, a guy whose sole responsibility was to handle the knuckle-ball. In December of 2005, the Red Sox traded Mirabelli to the San Diego Padres and attempted to replace him with Josh Bard, a move that turned into an unmitigated disaster for Boston. Realizing their mistake, the Red Sox sent Bard and Cla Meredith to the Padres on May 1, 2006 and then rushed Mirabelli, with a police escort no less, to the ballpark to catch Wakefield that night.

John Gibbons recognizes that the difficulty in handling the pitch takes a special breed of catcher.

“They’ve got to spend a lot of time working with Dickey because [the knuckleball] is an unusual, unique pitch,” Gibbons said. “It takes a lot of work. If you’ve got any pitcher on your staff that clearly works better with [a particular] catcher, it would be stupid not to do it that way.”

In short, Gibbons realizes that you don’t need to fix something that is not broken. By hedging their bets and acquiring two catchers who have not only seen the knuckle-ball, but Dickey’s to boot, the Blue Jays have the right pieces already in place.

Why throw an unnecessary cog into the wheel?

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