Phoenix • Many big-name pitchers found reason to say no to the World Baseball Classic. R.A. Dickey was an automatic yes.
The knuckleball master, winner of the NL Cy Young Award with the New York Mets last season now plying his unorthodox trade with Toronto, made it known before anyone asked him that he wished to play.
Now he will start for the United States in its WBC opener Friday night against Mexico, something he calls "one of the greater privileges of my athletic career."
At 38, Dickey is the oldest player on the U. S. roster. As such, he remembers being a part of the U.S. team at the 1996 Olympics and wants to atone for the disappointment of that bronze medal.
"So this is a chance to redeem that in a lot of ways," he said. "So I was proactive in wanting to be a part of this team. When I thought it was a possibility, I texted Tony Clark [of the MLB Players Association] and said if there's a spot and Joe wants me, I would love to do it."
Needless to say, manager Joe Torre wanted him.
Dickey is one of three starting pitchers on the 28-man U.S. roster competing in Group D and by far the biggest name. San Francisco's Ryan Vogelsong will start Saturday against Italy, with Texas' Derek Holland going against Canada on Sunday.
Following round robin play, the top two teams advance to the second round next week in Florida. There, a fourth starter, Washington's Gio Gonzalez will join the fray.
Under WBC rules, to keep pitchers on their normal spring training regimen, starters are limited to 65 pitches in the first round.
Dickey figures that will be enough to make an impact against a Mexican lineup that surely has little experience against a knuckleball pitcher.
World Baseball Classic
• Italy 6, Mexico 5
• Dominican Republic 9, Venezuela 3
• Netherlands 6, Cuba 2
• Japan vs. Taiwan,3 a.m.
• Canada vs. Italy,12:30 p.m.
• Spain vs. Puerto Rico, 3:30 p.m.
• Mexico vs. United States, 7 p.m.