Sunday, February 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Knuckleball class for Jays Arencibia

DUNEDIN — When R.A. Dickey heads to the World Baseball Classic, the biggest beneficiary might be his catcher.

The Blue Jays right-hander, who allowed three runs in the first inning before settling down in an 11-6 victory over the Phillies on Saturday, leaves today to join the U.S. team. He'll be accompanied by new batterymate J.P. Arencibia.

"It's huge," Arencibia said of the opportunity to become more familiar with Dickey and his knuckleball. "It's tough to leave because there's still other guys that I would love to work with, but it also is good to be able to go out there and play with him and get to know him better."

Shortly after the pair return to camp, they will learn who will work behind the plate when Dickey begins to deliver his knuckler in the regular season.

"It's an awful tough pitch," Jays manager John Gibbons said. "When the games start counting and that guy's sitting in scoring position on third base, you don't want that ball going back to the screen."

Arencibia wants the role, but Gibbons gives the edge to Josh Thole and Henry Blanco as former teammates of Dickey's with the Mets.

Phillies: No worries

DUNEDIN — The poor weather didn't agree with Cliff Lee. The Phillies lefty isn't panicking.

Lee, who won the 2008 AL Cy Young Award with the Indians, gave up two first-inning runs to the Blue Jays on doubles by Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera and a single by Edwin Encarnacion. Emilio Boni­facio tied it at 3 in the second with a solo home run.

"I missed up in the zone a few times, obviously, with the wind," Lee said. "Physically, I feel great. It's just a matter of honing it in a little better."

GOOD RIDDANCE: Phillies 1B Ryan Howard hit a two-run homer off the Blue Jays' Dickey in the first inning. Still, Howard's pleased the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner was dealt from the NL East rival Mets. "I'll let the AL East go ahead and deal with him over there," Ryan said, grinning.

Yankees: Nova stellar

TAMPA — Pitching coach Larry Rothschild hinted in early February that RHP Ivan Nova had the inside track on the fifth starter's job, but Joe Girardi hinted at nothing.

"He has to go out and prove himself," the manager said.

After watching his primary competition, RHP David Phelps, record two impressive exhibition starts, Nova finally got his chance to make an impression Saturday.

It was a good one.

Nova, 26, allowed one hit and struck out one in two innings and looked sharp in a 10-3 victory over the Tigers. Nova threw 27 pitches, 22 for strikes.

Girardi said Nova's fastball, which topped out at 94 mph, stood out. "I thought his fastball command was really good," he said. "Pleased with where he was at his first start. He needs to build on that."

Nova's best pitch of the day might have been the looping 81-mph curveball for a called third strike that he threw to Kevin Russo to lead off the second. "A really good day," C Chris Stewart said.

INJURY REPORT: LHP Andy Pettitte is scheduled for his first simulated game today, in Tampa. Closer Mariano Rivera, coming off knee surgery, will take part in his second simulated game. RHP Phil Hughes will throw for the first time in two weeks since being sidelined by a bulging disc in his upper back.

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