Toronto Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey admits he's not feeling his best. There are quite a few New York Yankees who could say the same thing.
Dickey, the 2012 NL Cy Young winner with the Mets, makes his return to the Big Apple on Sunday when the Yankees go for the four-game sweep.
After leaving his previous start on April 18 with tightness in his neck and back, Dickey (2-3, 4.66 ERA) went six innings in Tuesday's 4-3 loss at Baltimore, yielding four runs and walking a season-high five.
The right-hander never issued more than four free passes last season when he went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA and 230 strikeouts with the Mets.
"I'm definitely not 100 percent," Dickey said. "I'm giving everything I can possibly give but it feels like going to battle with a three-shooter instead of a six-shooter. You just don't have what you normally have. You feel like what you have is good enough to keep your team in it. But it's frustrating because you want to give more."
The Blue Jays (9-16) need all they can get from Dickey as they try to finish their seven-game trip with two wins. Toronto has dropped six straight and 17 of 20 in the Bronx following Saturday's 5-4 defeat.
"You know what, right now we're not good enough. It's that simple," said manager John Gibbons, whose team has lost a season-high three in a row.
The Yankees (14-9), meanwhile, can win a season high-tying fourth straight, a day removed from putting two more players on the disabled list. Catcher Francisco Cervelli, who broke his right hand in Friday's 6-4 win, and Ivan Nova (right triceps) were the latest additions, joining Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixiera.
The Yankees, though, did get Kevin Youkilis (lower back) back following a six-game absence. He went 0 for 3 with a walk.
"There's an expectation here, and I think a lot of guys feed off of that," said manager Joe Girardi, whose team rallied from a pair of deficits to improve to 5-1 against Toronto this season.
Newcomers Travis Hafner and former Blue Jay Vernon Wells are doing just that. Hafner had a three-run homer - his sixth - and a run-scoring triple on Saturday, while Wells knocked in a run for the fourth consecutive game.
"It seems like a different group of guys are stepping up every night," Hafner said.
The Yankees would like to see Phil Hughes (0-2, 5.14) do that Sunday. The right-hander has settled down nicely following two rough outings to open the season, throwing seven innings of two-run ball with six strikeouts in each of his last two appearances, most recently a 4-3 loss at Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Hughes, though, did not earn a decision in either of those outings.
He went 2-2 with a 5.73 ERA in six starts against Toronto last season.
Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, who have hit five of the Blue Jays' seven homers this series, have both gone deep off Hughes once. First baseman Adam Lind, who has two home runs against the right-hander to lead active Blue Jays, is expected to return from the paternity list on Sunday.
Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, who's batting .476 (20 for 42) during a 10-game hitting streak against Toronto, is 3 for 10 off Dickey.
Wells is 7 for 13 with two doubles against the knuckleballer.