Bartolo Colon is 43 years old. He has 18 years experience in the big leagues. R.A. Dickey is 42 years old. He has 11 years experience in the big leagues. And Jaime Garcia is just 30 years old, with eight years experience in the big leagues.
These three veteran pitchers were brought by the Atlanta Braves in to be the bridge. The organization has young pitchers on the way, but they’re not ready just yet. These old(er) pitchers will help the team win this season and at the same time teach the young prospects.
The Braves signed Dickey first, and he’s the only one of the three with a chance of sticking around for next year. He made his first start in an Atlanta uniform Monday, and his fluttering knuckleball was better than usual for the early part of spring.
Dickey admits he’s not a conventional pitcher, so the success of his knuckler in the first outing was a great sign.
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“I just want to continue to build that into the muscle memory,” Dickey said. “It’s like a golfer making a really pure swing. You just want to continue to build that in so when the lights come on, the TVs are on and it really counts, you can fall back on all the times you’ve done it well.”
Dickey is known as the consummate professional. He was a bit older (35) when he had his first significant success, so he doesn’t have the typical story of being a top prospect who became a star. He’s the perfect type of pitcher to share his experiences with the young pitchers for the future.
Colon is a folk hero. He’s not your typical athlete, as he weighs (supposedly) around 280 pounds. He has been with the New York Mets the past few seasons, and New York’s pitchers were practically in tears when he left. Colon made that big of an impact on his teammates.
Garcia is in the final year of his contract, so he’s playing for a new deal. When healthy, Garcia has been one of the best lefties in the NL, and he has a World Series ring.
“There’s a lot of pedigree in the locker room,” Dickey said. “There’s a lot of new blood and people that are hungry to show people what they can do. Then there’s the veteran side of things with people that know what it takes to sustain a championship season. You’ve got a great mix. They’ve done a great job in the front office of assembling a group that’s got a little bit of everything. Our starting staff has a whole lot of different looks. We should be very competitive.”
While some may see this as a transition year, the Braves are talking more. They believe they can be better and can win. But there’s nothing wrong with winning and allowing the young kids to learn along the way.
“I think they’re seeing what those guys do, what time they get here, what they’re going through every day, preparing for that next bullpen, that next start,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “It’s about consistency. They’ve figured out what they need to do. That’s a big thing for any young person to see.
“All those guys have been through ups and downs in their careers. They’ve kind of seen both sides of it, and I think there’s a lot of value in that as a person to translate to these young guys that you don’t need to take it for granted. This could be the one window for anybody. Those guys can attest to how hard it is to get your foot in the door.”
Pitching prospects like Max Fried, Sean Newcomb, Lucas Sims and Patrick Weigel are in big league camp. They might be part of the future rotation, but they are getting a great education this spring.
Dickey said, “We’ve got some guys on the club that now will be able to allow those guys to season a little bit and really master some things that they will need for the next level so you won’t have to rush them. There are a lot of good pieces in place for this organization.”
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” — 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at email@example.com.