Dickey can't pinpoint reason for early-season struggles

Knuckleballer off to slow start for third straight year

Dickey can't pinpoint reason for early-season struggles

ST. PETERSBURG -- The mystery surrounding R.A. Dickey's struggles at the beginning of the season has now carried into its third year.

Toronto's veteran knuckleballer is at a loss when it comes to finding reasons behind his subpar results in April. The trend began when Dickey joined the Blue Jays back in 2013, carried into 2014 and has resurfaced once again.

April has not been kind to Dickey, but since history has repeated itself for three years, the hope is that the positive results are on the horizon just like they were in each of the past two seasons.

"It's uncanny to me how similar my starts have been," Dickey said after allowing eight runs -- seven earned -- over 4 2/3 innings in the Blue Jays' 12-3 loss to the Rays on Friday. "It's really bizarre. So you just trust the process and know you're going to get better and it's part of what being a professional is."

In 2013, Dickey went 2-5 with a 5.36 ERA over his first seven starts of the season and then posted a 3.94 ERA the rest of the way. Last year, Dickey went 2-3 with a 5.09 ERA in six starts over the first month of the season.

The results were looking more positive this year as Dickey entered Friday's game with a 3.26 ERA, but all it takes is one bad outing to see a drastic dropoff. Following Dickey's disappointing outing against Tampa Bay, he's now 0-2 with a 5.25 ERA on the season.

"I wish I did, if I did it'd probably be different," Dickey said when asked if he had an explanation. "Some of it is probably my velocity wasn't there like it normally is tonight, for whatever reason. I felt fine, but it just wasn't coming out with a consistent velocity.

"One would come out 76 [mph], one would come out 71 and they'd feel exactly the same out of my hand. Some of that is just figuring it out in between starts and some of it'll be just the gradual building of arm strength over time. So we'll see."

Dickey has been remarkably consistent since joining the Blue Jays three years ago. There have been the poor Aprils but then there also have been the strong second halfs and overall solid performance. Friday's outing was the first time since April 17, 2014, that Dickey didn't go at least five innings.

The 40-year-old also wasn't able to complete six innings for just the second time in his last 24 outings. Dickey remains confident that he'll figure things out soon.

"I've thrown three pretty fair starts and one clunker," Dickey said. "I've got 30 starts left. I'm not like throwing my hands up in the air and panicking, but at the same time you're always trying to figure it out, right?

"In Spring Training I took it slower and felt like I was in a good place and seemed to be on track, and then you just have an outing where you show up and you give your best and it's just stinky, so you kind of throw it away, and that's what tonight was."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.