One of the more interesting storylines for this season — and a vital factor in whether or not the Braves can accomplish their goal of at least being a competitive team in the National League for 2017 — is the compatibility of catchers Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Both catchers have minimal-to-no experience catching the challenging pitch, but they’re both trying to figure it out and have been working on it this spring.
R.A. Dickey will probably need a primary catcher for his pitch, and so far it appears that Kurt Suzuki has the inside track on this job. Braves beat writer Mark Bowman reported that Dickey himself was impressed with how Suzuki was handling the pitch, and Bowman himself described Suzuki’s catching of the knuckleball as “skillful,” which you can read below.
"The thing that was most encouraging today was I had a really good [catcher]," Dickey said. "Kurt handled it very, very well. He made a great adjustment from the bullpen, where he was kind of struggling with it a little bit, to the game. He's just a pro, so he wants to be as great as he can. I try to help him as much as I can, but it's a hard thing to catch that thing."
Though Suzuki had never previously caught a knuckleballer during a game, he certainly didn't show any inexperience as he skillfully handled the dancing and darting pitch as Dickey surrendered a pair hits and two runs (one earned) over two innings.
"You know you're going to mess up every once in a while, but we'll see," Suzuki said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge."
We’re still in the early days of spring training, but this particular development is good news for Suzuki in particular. Although the Braves haven’t officially decided on which catcher will get the bulk of playing time, you have to figure that Tyler Flowers would’ve been the favorite to break camp as the starter. However, even if Flowers does eventually get the nod as the primary catcher, Suzuki being the knuckleball catcher will only help bolster his chances for even more playing time than usual.
Again, this is going to be a very important situation for the Braves to figure out over the course of the season. Even though both catchers are experienced, they’ll probably each take their fair share of lumps getting used to catching the knuckleball. With that being said,it’ll certainly help to have some sort of reliability in that position for Dickey’s games, and if early signs are any indication, it could be Kurt Suzuki who takes on the bulk of the responsibility for this particular task in 2017.