Biddle's Beat: Wed. July 11, 2012 - WKRN News 2

Biddle's Beat: Wed. July 11, 2012

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One inning.

One lousy inning. Three outs.

That's the thanks Mets All-Star pitcher R.A. Dickey got from National League manager Tony LaRussa Tuesday night.

LaRussa ignored the Nashville native when he bypassed Dickey as the starting pitcher in favor of Matt Cain.

If that wasn't enough of a snub, Dickey never got off the bench until the bottom of the sixth inning, the National League coasting with an 8-0 lead. The game was over at that point. Dickey was relegated to a cameo appearance.

Dickey did what he has been doing all season. He kept the opponent off the scoreboard, striking out Mark Trumbo, hitting a batter and coaxing an inning-ending double play on his patented knuckleball.

Like Posey, reserve catcher Carlos Ruiz had never caught a knuckleballer either, but Dickey made it easy on him.

"I didn't really throw many like, super-duper ones. It was much more I wanted to throw strikes and work quickly and I was able to do that,'' Dickey told reporters after the game.

"The one I threw to Trumbo that he struck out on was a pretty good one. (Ruiz) handled it like he was catching with chopsticks.''

Dickey was 12-1 at the All Star break, the most wins in the major leagues. Cain had three losses against him. Dickey had the better ERA (2.40) more strikeouts (123) and had thrown back-to-back one-hitters.

Since Dickey started pitching for the Mets, he has posted the eighth lowest ERA among National League starting pitchers.

So it's not like he just popped up on the map, although the well-traveled Dickey was more famous for being mired for years in the minor leagues since he left the University of Tennessee as a first-round pick of the Texas Rangers.

It wasn't until Rangers skipper Buck Showalter and pitching coach Orel Hershiser urged Dickey to find another pitch or risk always being a career minor leaguer, that he turned his professional life around.

Dickey took the ball and ran with it. He had toyed with a knuckleball as a young kid. Hasn't everyone that ever played baseball, even if you were just playing catch?

Dickey studied the pitch in earnest. He picked the brains of former knuckleball pitchers Phil Niekro and Tim Wakefield. He learned there were different ways to skin the cat.

While most knuckleball pitchers threw a slower version of the pitch, the former three-sport athlete at Montgomery Bell Academy uses a version that resembles a butterfly on steroids.

It reaches the batter quicker, but still has the unpredictable tendencies of floating knucklers.

The knuckler was LaRussa's reluctance to start Dickey. Some purists scoff at the pitch. They consider it a gimmick pitch. Dickey is the only major league pitcher using it this season.

LaRussa has always thought he is the smartest man in the room.

But his excuse doesn't pass the sniff test. LaRussa also said catcher Buster Posey had never caught a knuckleballer before and was reluctant to start Dickey.

Excuse me. Isn't Posey an All-Star? You tell me he can't catch a knuckleball if he works with Dickey a day prior to the game?

LaRussa said he wanted to reward Cain for his outstanding career. Sorry, Cain is not the best story in baseball this season. R.A. Dickey is.

The 37-year-old had to reinvent himself to reach his first All-Star Game.

Just like the season he was playing for the Nashville Sounds. On a road trip to Omaha, Dickey walked down to the edge of the Missouri River. Trying to break the monotony of minor league baseball, Dickey tried to swim across the Missouri.

He found it too wide, but refused to turn back. He could have died trying, but eventually he reached the other side. For the cerebral Dickey, it was just another life lesson.

He has written a well-received biography, a poignant look at a most interesting life that included being sexually molested twice as a kid.

He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to support efforts to stop human trafficking for prostitution.

R.A. Dickey deserved a better hand than what LaRussa dealt him.

You can bet Robert Allen Dickey will rise above it.

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at joebiddle11@gmail.com.

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