1 post • Page 1 of 1
CLEARWATER, Florida – Erik Kratzs friendship with R.A. Dickey, he who throws that strange knuckleball, is growing. At 33, back with the Blue Jays organization and tasked with catching a pitch Dickey once described as a "capricious animal," Kratz is a veteran who is evolving under the bright Florida sun. "Its a cool challenge, it really is," said Kratz of catching the knuckleball. "Its something that as any athlete, any competitor will say that the competition, the effort level is something that youre never going to be someone that says, I didnt quite give it all I had today, but in a sense you have to kind of just relax and let the game come to you, which you have to do normally, but as a catcher you kind of have to have that energy." Kratz is like any other ballplayer. Hes been at this game for years and has developed habits that suit his game and have become second nature. Some of these habits are obvious, things youre taught the moment you strap on catchers gear, like giving the pitcher a firm target. Throw up your glove as he enters his wind up. Will your battery mate to locate his pitch. It doesnt work that way catching Dickey. The knuckleballer doesnt want a target. When Dickey is on his game, he has a good idea of where his pitch will end up, but it still can be unpredictable. Kratz is still at the point where hes reminding himself to let his glove rest over his left knee in his crouch, even when Dickey throws his fastball. Kratz has to be consistent every pitch or the hitter could know whats coming. Its a different mindset and he admits he finds it mentally taxing. "Thats something that as a catcher, I take pride in receiving the ball," he said, moving his left hand as if to put up a target. "I take pride in making the pitch look good. Its something that is a hard habit to break, but on the same hand, its something Ive got to be cognizant of that. I call fastball, normally Im like, Hey, lets get it out there; whoops, maybe not because I dont want to tip his pitches." When youre tasked with catching the knuckleball, you have to set your ego aside. "Its a part of my game that I feel is, not to sound conceited, but I feel like Im pretty good at it," said Kratz of his receiving prowess behind the plate. "I feel like Im really good at it. (Catching the knuckleball is) a challenge that is exciting and every time I go out there, kind of at the beginning I was like, jeez, now Im like lets go out there and do it and see what I can get." The battery-mates spend a lot of time together. Dickey says Kratz has "improved" at handling his pitch. The Blue Jays havent publicly committed to Kratz as the second catcher behind Dioner Navarro, saying that the other alternative, Josh Thole, has an extensive history with Dickey and the club needs to see whether Kratz can do the job. Navarro hasnt played in more than 89 games since 2009, making it likely the Jays will need their backup to play more often. Assuming thats the case, the club requires reasonable improvement over Tholes .175/.256/.242 slash line he posted last season. Kratz has hit 18 home runs in 375 at-bats over the last two seasons playing for the Phillies. He is a low batting average, low on-base percentage hitter but he at least is a threat to go deep. Acquired from Philadelphia, along with left-handed pitcher Rob Rasmussen, for reliever Brad Lincoln on December 3, the former Blue Jays draft pick is preparing as if the job is his. Kratz is using a first basemans glove, instead of an oversized catchers mitt, although, he may revert if he finds a prototype with more flexibility. Each time hes catching Dickey in a bullpen session, he simulates game situations in his mind. Kratz will pretend theres a runner on third. If the knuckleball gets by him, chances are that run scores. Its not quite like live game action, but hes trying to put himself in the right frame of mind. Its important not only for himself, Kratz believes, but also for his teammates. He needs to project the right aura. His is the only position each of his teammates can on the field see in front of them. "If you have a bad energy catcher, you have a bad energy team, in my opinion," said Kratz. "The best teams that have guys that are high energy, you look at them and theyre in every play and theyre ready to go." DICKEY WORKS IN TRIPLE-A GAME While the Blue Jays lost a Grapefruit League game 6-3 to the Rays in Port Charlotte on Saturday, R.A. Dickey was pitching in a Triple-A game in Clearwater, against the Phillies Lehigh Valley Ironpigs affiliate. He logged 7 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on six hits and two walks. Dickey struck out two hitters. He threw 100 pitches, 60 of which were strikes. "Its a great mental exercise to come out here and execute your pitches regardless of the situation, surroundings, competition," said Dickey. "Im competing against myself more than I am those guys, anyway, so its a great exercise for me." "I feel more ready," said Dickey. "Now, Im going to take that into the season with me. Its no guarantee that things are going to be perfectly smooth, but at the same time the way that I feel brings a level of confidence with it that I dont have when youre not as prepared. And, yes, I do feel more ready." Dickey has two more starts before he takes the mound on opening day, March 31, against the Rays in St. Petersburg. The first, in which he plans to throw another 100 pitches, will be in a minor-league game, likely on Friday. He will make a shorter start on March 26 versus the Yankees in Dunedin. Authentic LeBron James Lakers Jersey . -- One shot came out of bottom of a cactus, the other from the base of a desert bush with rocks scattered around it. James Worthy Lakers Jersey .The surgery was performed by Dr. William Meyers at the Vincera Institute in Philadelphia.Letestu had three goals and two assists in nine games before being injured in late October.The 29-year-old has 54 goals and 65 assists in 273 career NHL games, including 39 goals and 51 assists in 188 games with the Blue Jackets. http://www.lakersteamofficial.com/Kurt- ... ersey/.com) - Delon Wright made all 12 of his free throws and finished with 21 points and six assists as No. Nick Van Exel Lakers Jersey . The unrestricted free agent agreed to terms with the club on Thursday on a one-year, two-way deal worth $700,000. Michael Cooper Lakers Jersey . Johnny Manziel, college footballs most entertaining player with the reputation for pulling off magical plays, was selected with the No.BERLIN -- Gegard Mousasi forced Mark Munoz to tap out in the first round on Saturday in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Munoz vs. Mousasi at Germanys O2 World Berlin. Mousasi (35-4-2) showed resilience after a disappointing February loss to top contender Lyoto Machida. Munoz (13-5) wasted little time working inside for a takedown, but Mousasi showed ample defence, earning top position in an early scramble. Munoz eventually worked back to his feet, but Mousasi was always a step quicker with his movement and more accurate with his strikes. As Munoz continued to press for a takedown, Mousasi battered him with elbows and eventually moved to his opponents back. Bloodied and battered, Munoz tapped out at the 3:57 mark of the first round when Mousasi applied a rear-naked choke. "I worked a lot on the rear-naked choke and the guillotine," said Mousasi. "I set it up with punches, and I was able to get it. Hes a wrestler, so he always comes forward. I wanted to pick up the angles and slowly pick up the pressure." In the nights co-feature, C.B. Dolloway (15-5) made his case for a top-10 ranking with an impressive win over Frances Francis Carmont (22-9), a Tristar Gym fighter who lives in Montreal. Carmont used powerful strikes to batter Dolloway in the opening stages of the fight, kicking hard to the body and firing big right hands. Unfazed, Dolloway began to taunt his opponent and hang his chin before unleashing a crisp left hook that dropped Carmont to the floor. Dolloway pounced to finish, but Carmont quickly recovered and moved back to his feet. The two continued to trade strikes throughout an entertaining first round before Carmont scored a late takedown. However, Dolloway swept immediately to the top and finished the round in top position. Dolloway looked to work the body in the second, while Carmont continued to attack the legs and body with powerful kicks. Dolloway eventually worked inside for a takedown, moving to his opponents back and securing the dominant position. An alert Carmont tried to work for a kimura, but Dolloway kept his arm tucked and again finished the frame in a dominant position. In the third, Carmont initially looked for a takedown, but Dolloway defended the move and countered with one of his own. As blood trickled down his face, Dolloway advanced to his opponents back, but Carmont defended a choke attempt and worked back to his feet. A relentless Dollaway turned back to his wrestling, bringing the fight to the floor and movving quickly to mount.dddddddddddd The pair scrambled for the remainder of the fight, but it was Dolloway who again was in top position at the bell. In the end, Dolloways effort was enough to earn him one of the biggest wins of his career by unanimous decision with scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28. "Im exhausted, but I feel on top of the world," Dolloway said. "Francis was hard to get to, and he was a little bit more difficult to get past than I thought he would be. I took a while to adjust and to get into the fight. Now Ive just got to keep working. This is what I want, so Ive just got to keep on working to get there." In a middleweight matchup that failed to live up to expectations, Sean Strickland (15-0) earned a controversial split-decision win over Luke Barnatt (8-1). The contest played out at a moderate pace with neither athlete truly taking control of the pace. Strickland was the crisper striker in the early going, and scored an early takedown in the second frame. But along the way, Strickland suffered a broken hand, and it limited his offence for the rest of the contest. Barnatt picked up his offensive volume in the latter stages of the bout, but he never truly put together any significant combinations, and Strickland was awarded a split-decision win with scores of 28-29, 30-27 and 29-28. UFC president Dana White immediately posted on Twitter, stressing that he felt the wrong man was awarded the victory. "I should have pulled the trigger more," Strickland admitted after the win. "In the third round, I was pretty much useless. I know my cardio was there though, going into the fight, and I knew I could push the pace. I just gave Luke Barnatt a lot of respect. Hes a tough guy." In the nights first main-card contest, Swedish featherweight Niklas Backstrom (8-0) picked up a victory in his UFC debut, submitting Finnish veteran Tom Niinimaki (21-6-1) in the first round. Niinimaki worked hard to get the fight to the floor, but once there, Backstrom scrambled first for a guillotine choke and then transitioned to his opponents back. Once in place, Backstrom locked a sneaky rear-naked choke, forcing a tap from Niinimaki with 45 seconds left in the first round. "Life is weird you know; you just have to work the hardest that you can and then everything will fall into place," an emotional Backstrom said. "This has been a really, really big dream for me. Everything happens so fast in the UFC." Cheap Chargers Jerseys Cheap Rams Jersey Cheap Dolphins Jerseys Cheap Vikings Jerseys Cheap Patriots Jersey Cheap Saints Jerseys Cheap New York Giants Jerseys Cheap Jets Jerseys Cheap Raiders Jerseys Cheap Eagles Jerseys Cheap Steelers Jerseys Cheap 49ers Jerseys Cheap Seahawks Jerseys Cheap Buccaneers Jerseys Cheap Titans Jerseys Cheap Redskins Jerseys ' ' '