By Bob Elliott
DUNEDIN, Fla. _ R.A. Dickey marched the same March path Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are travelling this year.
Where will they be next year?
How much will they earn?
In the spring of 2010 with the New York Mets Dickey was about to embark on his first season in the rotation.
At the end of the year he was either headed for salary arbitration or a multi-year deal -- a large raise awaited either way.
“I was able to compartmentalize, I knew things would care of themselves,” said Dickey.
The knuckleballer made 26 starts going 11-9 with a 2.84 ERA for manager Jerry Manuel’s 79-win Mets, who finished fourth in the National League East.
Dickey, who pitched six innings against a Philadelphia Phillies farm team Friday (74 pitches, one run), signed a two-year deal with an option at the end of the season worth $12.5 million U.S. after the two sides had exchanged numbers in salary arbitration.
Bautista and Encarnacion are both headed for free agency. While Encarnacion has not played -- sidelined by strained oblique until next week -- Bautista went deep homering on a changeup from Houston Astros right-hander Doug Fister in the third on Friday afternoon.
The three-run homer either severed a limb off a tree or went into the yard of Curtis Fundamental Elementary School, where we are guessing that besides reading, writing and arithmetic, they teach fundamentals like pitchers covering first, bunting and rundowns.
And to think when Bautista arrived at his locker a teammate asked how he was doing, he answered “not good, I woke up in a bad mood.”
Post game, after sprinting 50 feet from his position in right to the clubhouse door, Bautista flexed his right bicep.
Is he worried about the uncertainty that lies ahead in this difficult spring?
“It’s not a difficult spring, I haven’t forgotten how to play the baseball,” said Bautista. “I know what I can do, I know how I feel.
“I’m not worried. Neither is Edwin.”
Bautista gave the Jays a number it would take for him to stay with the Jays the day he arrived saying there would be zero form of negotiation, which is a form of negotiation we think. The number(s) he asked for has been reported a number of places, yet both sides say the real number has yet to emerge.
Encarnacion has been offered a two-year deal. We’re told that the Jays did not attach a dollar figure asking Encarnacion to submit a starting point.
Hmmmm. Could that be because Bautista did, numbers are out and some fans are knocking Bautista as being greedy?
It has been suggested by some fans that the Jays should deal one or both. Well that is not happening unless either or both give their approval. Bautista (with 10 years and 165 days service time) and Encarnacion (10 years, 85 days) can’t be dealt under terms of the Basic Agreement.
There could be a landing spot for Encarnacion at Fenway Park come 2017 since David Ortiz is about to begin his farewell, retirement tour. Imagine watching him walk the parrott as a visiting player.
While Bautista was operating as usual, lefty Randy Choate, 40, made his spring debut, hopping the final step from the outfield warning track onto the grass.
“Week ago I was home in Vegas,” said Choate, who received a text from former Jays lefty Mark Buehrle after he signed asking “didn’t you have more fun sitting at home?” They were teammates with the 2012 Florida Marlins.
“I told him ‘you told me how much you enjoyed Toronto last year you sold me on the place.’ He kept telling me it was such a laid back atmosphere, spoke very highly of the club, the city and John Gibbons,” said Choate.
Last year messaged Buehrle asking “if it he was having as much fun as it looked,” on TV.
Buehrle said it was all that and more.
Gibbons lifted Steve Delabar so Choate could face the left-handed hitting Luis Valbuena.
“I was able to throw a first pitch slider, it’s so relaxed here I knew both (Gibbons and pitching coach Pete Walker) would have said ‘hey, it’s your first time out,’” said Choate, who threw another on a 3-2 pitch with Valbuena dribbled like Marcus Haynes to first baseman Dustin Smoak.
In his 16th season, Choate has pitched in two World Series: 2001 with the New York Yankees and 2013 with the St. Louis Cardinals. He’s an insurance policy if durable lefty Aaron Loup is not ready to go.
“We had a pretty good offensive team with the 2000 Yankees after David Justice came over from the Cleveland Indians,” said Choate. Justice joined the likes of Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Paul O’Neill and Tino Martinez.
The Yankees beat the Mets but Choate did not pitch.
“I was a young, wide-eyed rookie, I’m not sure which one had more pop,” said Choate. The 2000 Yankees scored 871 with 285 homers, while the Jays scored 891 with 232 home runs.
“Who do you skip in this lineup, especially when Edwin comes back?” Choate said.
Encarnacion will be there opening day at the Tropicana Field.
Come next April on opening day?
That’s anyone’s guess right now.