Arencibia learns challenges of catching knuckleball
After setting club record with three passed balls, catcher gets into groove
TORONTO -- J.P. Arencibia has known all along that catching R.A. Dickey was going to be a challenge, but on Opening Night, he got a glimpse of just how difficult it can be.
Arencibia was charged with three passed balls in the first three innings before he settled into a groove with the veteran knuckleballer.
The 27-year-old has prepared himself for the ups and downs that come with catching that type of pitcher and says the most important thing is to try and leave the miscues in the past.
"Frustrating wouldn't be the word for it, I think it's a challenge," Arencibia said after the Blue Jays' 4-1 loss to the Indians on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre. "First thing that they told me was, 'Listen, you're going to miss balls, you're going to miss balls with guys on third base and they're going to score, and you have to put it behind you.'
"There are going to be pitches that he throws that no one could have caught unless you have a fish net that's for large fish. It's not going to be an easy ball to catch. That's the fun of catching it. I think it's a challenge, and once you're able to settle in and stuff like that, it was a lot easier."
Arencibia's three passed balls set a Blue Jays single-game record. The previous record was two and had been done on 11 different occasions.
The number of errors might seem high, but it becomes more understandable when put into context. Dickey's catcher with the Mets last season, Josh Thole, also had a three-passed-ball game and twice committed two. The errors will never be completely taken out of the equation, but the goal is to limit the total number whenever possible.
Arencibia did make one noticeable adjustment after a conversation with veteran backup catcher Henry Blanco between the third and fourth innings that seemed to make a difference. Blanco noticed that Arencibia was setting up with his body a little too squared to Dickey.
That's normally the ideal position for a regular pitcher, but when Dickey is on the mound, Arencibia tends to slightly turn and open up his right leg, which creates an increased ability to react to balls.
"Right away, that inning, I opened up and I was a lot more free," said Arencibia, who didn't commit another passed ball the rest of the way. "That could be part of it for me, just whatever the excitement. You don't think about things like that. You're really trying to concentrate. You creep, creep, creep to where you feel normal and then you notice.
"Once I turned it, opened it up and made it free again. Those are just in-game adjustments you're going to have to do, and everyone is going to do them, especially as you get more experience, you learn to make those adjustments."