R.A. Dickey recently put Josh Thole in touch with retired catcher Doug Mirabelli, who caught Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball.
On Saturday, Terry Collins ran into former knuckleball pitcher Steve Sparks, an Astros broadcaster, and invited him to offer the struggling Dickey advice.
“I actually was very lucky,” Collins said. “I saw Steve Sparks on the way out of the ballpark yesterday, who pitched for me in Anaheim. I said, ‘Look, feel free to come on down if you’re seeing something and have a conversation with R.A.’”
Dickey is winless since his first start of the season. Overall, he is 1-5 with a 5.08 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts).
Collins said as much as Dan Warthen has tried to discern the issue, the pitching coach -- and Collins himself -- are at a loss because knuckleball pitchers are so specialized. Still, Sparks noted Warthen should have insights because Warthen was his pitching coach with the Detroit Tigers.
“I have no idea,” Collins said about the root of Dickey's difficulty. “I saw back in 1992, Tim Wakefield came up and he was 10-1 the second half of the season in the big leagues [with Pittsburgh], took us to the playoffs. 1993 he ended up back in the minor leagues. He couldn’t get anybody out. How do you figure it out? Ray Miller was one of, if not the best, pitching coach in baseball and couldn’t figure it out. So it’s not something that’s easy. It’s going to take a lot of work. But I know one thing: Those two guys will work at it and come up with an answer.”
Approached before Sunday's series finale, Sparks said he had not yet spoken with Dickey, but might head down to the clubhouse after doing his pregame TV preparations.
Sparks' intended advice?
"This is just what I would convey: R.A. Dickey knows exactly what he is doing when he's going right," Sparks said. "That's what Warthen should always kind of refer to -- know what he's doing when he's going right and write down a lot of notes on that. And then when things are going bad, look at what the differences are."
Asked how many more times he could afford to use the struggling Dickey in the rotation without improvement, Collins -- aware of the limited options at Triple-A even if he really wanted to make a change --deadpanned: “Twenty-eight more times.”