Dickey knows he's 'capable of a lot more'

Veteran knuckleballer anticipating first spring start with Braves

Dickey knows he's 'capable of a lot more'

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Though his final season with the Blue Jays was not as successful as he had wished, R.A. Dickey is approaching this season genuinely confident in his ability to give the Braves possibly more than they envisioned when they signed him to a one-year, $8 million contract in November.

"I knew I was capable of a lot more, which is why I'm here," Dickey said. "If I didn't, I would have retired."

Dickey will have a chance to shake off some of the offseason rust and get a better feel for his knuckleball when he makes his Grapefruit League debut as the Braves travel to play the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla., on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET.

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"Spring for me is not about results at all," Dickey said. "It's more about getting my body ready. I will get some feedback from results, but not scoreboard results. Things like hard-contact results are more important to me than anything else. But I won't really start paying attention to that until mid-March."

After completing five straight 200-plus inning seasons and compiling a 3.81 ERA over the 67 starts he made from 2014-15, Dickey produced a 4.46 ERA over 29 starts this past year and spent most of September out of Toronto's rotation.

Dickey surrendered five earned runs in two of his five April starts, and then he produced a 3.10 ERA over the final 14 starts made before the All-Star break. But when he put up a 7.62 ERA over his first five starts after the break, the Blue Jays began pushing back his starts and ultimately replaced him with Francisco Liriano.

"Some of the metrics I look for, like less than a hit-per-inning-pitched and two-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio, those things were still there for me," Dickey said. "It was just I gave up a couple more long balls than I had hoped to, and that was really it."

Fortunately for Dickey, he didn't have to wait long to find his next job, as the Braves signed him during the first week of the free-agent season. It was a perfect match for the 42-year-old hurler, who avidly watched the Braves during his youth and now wanted an opportunity to pitch close to his family's Nashville, Tenn., home.

"I've felt really good," Dickey said. "My body has felt great. I feel like my arm strength is coming back quick, and I'm loving getting to know my new teammates. I've had a lot of fun doing that. There is a lot to look forward coming to the park for me, because I get a chance to get to know these guys better and a better chance to work on my craft."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.