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Catching R.A. Dickey's knuckleball a challenge for NL catchers

By C. Trent Rosecrans | Blogger

Carlos Ruiz

“The way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until it stops rolling and pick it up” -- Bob Uecker

KANSAS CITY -- Buster Posey probably won't catch Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey in Tuesday's All-Star Game, but until Sunday night, he thought he may just have to. He asked around the Giants clubhouse if anyone could throw the pitch so he could practice catching the pitch. He already knew he had trouble hitting it and hoped catching it would be a little easier.

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In the end, Posey probably won't get the chance to see what it's like to be on the other end of Dickey's knuckler, as National League manager Tony La Russa hinted that Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz would likely enter the game at the same time as Dickey so the two could warm up in the bullpen together.

The extra time warming up together should help Ruiz adjust to catching the game's most unusual pitch, plus he has the added bonus of having caught a knuckleballer before. Ruiz noted he caught Jared Fernandez in 2005 with the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barrons. Fernandez, 40, last pitched in the big leagues in 2006 with the Brewers.

“For the most part, you have to be more relaxed. It's hard to explain,” Ruiz said Monday. “You feel like you have to be relaxed -- if you try to reach for a ball, that's what you're going to have trouble. You have to let it come to you.”

Ruiz said when he was in the minors, Fernandez traveled with his own glove. As CBSSports.com's Scott Miller noted earlier this week, Dickey was bringing along Josh Thole's glove for Ruiz. Thole uses a Rawlings Spark women's softball catcher's mitt to catch the knuckler and Ruiz will be using that when he catches Dickey, he said.

Posey said he hopes to catch a couple, just to satiate his curiosity.

Twins catcher Joe Mauer caught Dickey's knuckleballer in 2009, before Dickey went to New York. He remembered Dickey came with his own gloves -- “it's kind of a package deal,” Mauer said.

Mauer said it's tough at first to catch the knuckler and gets easier, but is never easy.

“I know when R.A. came over, I hadn't caught a true knuckleballer before. He gave me some pointers, I'm sure he's talking with Ruiz or whoever is catching him,” Mauer said. “I'm sure it can be nerve-wracking, especially with guys on base.”

Indeed, Ruiz and Dickey discussed their gameplan on the bus from the team's hotel to the media availability at Arrowhead Stadium on Monday. Ruiz is confident he can do it -- and glad he's not having to hit it. Ruiz has a double in his seven plate appearances against Dickey, but that's his only hit.

Dickey recently one-hit the Orioles, and that one hit didn't belong to catcher Matt Wieters. Wieters struck out in all three of his at-bats. He's never caught a knuckleball and isn't sure catching it is any easier than hitting it.

“We have some position players, we've had guys when we're running low on pitchers try it out in the bullpen, but never got in the game and used it,” Wieters said. “I look at guys like Josh Thole and he looks like he's mentally drained after a game.”

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