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Dickey makes first start on Saturday

4/6/2012

In the offseason, R.A. Dickey conquered a mountain against his team’s wishes and revealed that he was sexually abused as a child in his biography.

On Saturday afternoon, he’ll make his first start of 2012 against the Braves.

“I’ve been looking forward to it,” Dickey said Thursday. “I’ve felt like I had a good spring, really gotten better, and you’re always excited to get it in there when it counts for real. We’ve certainly put in a lot of hard work, so we’ll see where that hard work takes us.”

Dickey’s hard work goes back further than just one offseason. After flaming out as a conventional hurler, he reinvented himself as a knuckleballer, and has enjoyed great success and stability ever since. In two seasons as a Met, Dickey has made 58 starts and pitched to a 3.08 ERA.

“This is only my fourth Opening Day [in my career],” Dickey said. “I’ve got parts of 10 seasons, and this is only my fourth Opening Day, so just being here is a really neat experience, and I’m getting to soak it all in. You only get one Opening Day [per year], and to be part of it is special.”

Ever since his biography has been released nearly two weeks ago, Dickey said he has been met with “an outpouring of encouragement.”

“A lot of people would come up to me and share similar stories,” he said. “I figured it would be a very cathartic experience for other people, but it certainly was nice. They certainly felt empathy for the book.”

Dickey got off to a bad start in 2011, losing five of his first six decisions. He pitched to a 5.08 ERA in his first nine games (eight starts), while allowing opposing batters to hit .311 off of him. But in his final 24 games (all starts), Dickey went 7-8 with a 2.69 ERA. He allowed opposing batters to hit just .236 off of him, and averaged nearly 6-2/3 innings per outing.

Cold weather contributed to Dickey’s early-season woes, since knuckleballs tend to move better with humidity -- especially the mediocre ones, he pointed out.

“You want to have some humidity, but ask Tim Wakefield,” Dickey said. “He’s been making a living for a long time pitching in Boston in the cold, so it can be done. But [my knuckler] doesn’t move as sharply [in the cold].”

Wakefield is retired now, so Dickey is currently the last of a dying breed.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to carry the torch long enough for somebody else to take over,” Dickey said.

Dickey said he considers Citi Field “a very fair park.”

“It might have been unfair before they moved [the fences in],” he said. “It was slanted to the pitchers. The numbers would certainly point to that. But this looks very fair to me.”