Dickey in reflective mood as spring play opens

Veteran knuckleballer talks about his four seasons in Toronto before Blue Jays play Braves

Dickey in reflective mood as spring play opens

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There were signs that R.A. Dickey's time with the Blue Jays was running out late last season: He made only three appearances in September, and he wasn't included on the postseason roster.

So it wasn't surprising when the 42-year-old knuckleballer wasn't pursued as a free agent by Toronto. He eventually signed with the Braves. And before Saturday's Grapefruit League opener at Champion Stadium between his last team and his current club, he reflected on the four years he spent in Toronto.

"It's kind of sad [to be gone] in the sense that you're leaving a lot of relationships in a city that's meant a lot to you," he said. "And, quite frankly, I think we accomplished a lot as an organization. To leave that behind, there's a sadness, sure.

"But it's quickly replaced with the excitement and hope of being around a team that's close to [his home in Nashville], that can be competitive, in a different league."

Dickey was coming off winning the 2012 National League Cy Young Award with the Mets when the Blue Jays gave up four players, including catcher Travis d'Arnaud and right-hander Noah Syndergaard, to acquire him.

"What the Toronto organization gave up for me was quite a bit, so I came with a lot of expectations," he said. "I'll let [others] argue whether or not it was worth it. But as a player you take a lot of pride in wanting to be worth it. There was a lot of investment to managing that, because I cared."

Outlook: Dickey, SP, ATL

He never approached the numbers (20-6, 2.73 ERA) he put up in his last year with the Mets. In four years, he was 49-52 with a 4.05 ERA. At the same time, that's not a fair comparison because of the differences between the leagues and, especially, the offense-minded AL East.

"It was like being in a heavyweight boxing match where you survived all the rounds," he said. "You didn't get knocked out, but you were pretty beaten up. And that's what you have to expect when you're in that league. It wasn't anything I didn't expect. But it was tough."

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons noted that Dickey had double-digit wins in each of his seasons with Toronto and pitched at least 200 innings until last season, when he was phased out of the rotation in the last two months in favor of Francisco Liriano.

"He did a lot of good things for us here, he really did," Gibbons said. "He was going to take the ball. After we got Liriano he became the odd man out. It's never easy to leave off a guy who's been successful and a big part of the team. He didn't like it, but he took it like a pro."

Concluded Dickey: "To say I don't have a single regret is probably silly because we could have done a lot more in 2013 and '14. I wish I could have performed a little better at the end. But I look back on those days very fondly. We made it to the [ALCS] two of my four seasons there. My time in Toronto was a real treat for me."

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.