NEW YORK -- First-time All-Star R.A. Dickey is headed to Kansas City with the oversized catcher's glove -- really a softball mitt -- that teammate Josh Thole uses to catch knuckleballs during New York Mets games.
Look, I want to start the game. Of course I do. I think any competitor would like to.” -- Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey
Dickey, who completed the first half tied for the National League lead in wins with 12 and fifth in ERA at 2.40, remains hopeful All-Star manager Tony La Russa will select him as the NL's starting pitcher.
"Look, I want to start the game. Of course I do," said Dickey, who had a 42 2/3-inning scoreless streak during the first half. "I think any competitor would like to."
Dickey said it "logically" would be beneficial for him to open the game with Posey so the San Francisco Giants catcher would have extra time to get acquainted with the knuckleball.
With Yadier Molina withdrawing from the game due to a bereavement leave, and with only two catchers currently on the NL squad, Dickey's only other opportunity for extra work with the catcher who will receive his knuckleballs would be to simultaneously enter the game with the Philadelphia Phillies' Ruiz.
"I think you have a better shot starting the game, because you get to go through the whole workout routine, the whole warm-up routine, the pregame bullpen -- all that -- before you ever go into the game," said Dickey, a first-time All-Star at age 37. "If I'm brought into the game -- because you only have two catchers now, and Buster Posey hasn't seen me at all -- and all of a sudden here he is with seven warm-up pitches, that's a whole different animal."
Regardless, Dickey is thankful that it seems he will be used in the game. Past knuckleballers have gone unused out of concern for how an unfamiliar catcher might struggle with them.
Tim Wakefield, the last knuckleballer selected to an All-Star Game, did not see any action in 2009.
Similarly, in Phil Niekro's final two appearances, in 1982 and '84, he went unused. The time before that, in 1978, NL manager Tommy Lasorda only inserted Niekro to face the final batter of a 7-3 NL win.
"Truthfully, I don't know really what to expect," Dickey said. "It seems like I'm being talked about early on at least. So the fear of going and not getting an inning doesn't seem to be there. And I'm thankful for that."
Added teammate David Wright about La Russa: "He's going to do what he feels is best to win this game. And I'm a little biased. But I obviously think R.A. gives us a tremendous chance to win. He's done it the entire first half.
"Now, who's going catch it obviously is a challenge. I've seen guys that have been catching this thing for years look foolish back there. And so you obviously don't want to get anybody back there hurt. But, on the other hand, he's earned it. Whether it's starting or not, I hope he gets a chance to go in there and show what he's done for us in the first half. And I'm sure he'll get his chance."
Said Mets manager Terry Collins, who will serve on La Russa's staff: "R.A. has been the story of the league, for me."
Wright, incidentally, is thankful to be returning to the All-Star Game. He was not chosen last year because he was injured and missed two months with a stress fracture in his lower back. That snapped a streak of six straight selections.
"This one is really special because last year at this time I was rehabbing down in Florida and missed a few months," Wright said.