Friday, June 26, 2009

Rising role for R.A. Dickey

The Greg McMichael rule lives, and R.A. Dickey (left) is abiding by it.

The McMichael rule — dubbed for the pitcher who, in 1993, rose from minor league free agent to closer for the Atlanta Braves — holds that, if you get people out, they'll find a role for you. The Braves of the 1990s had one of the greatest pitching staffs ever assembled, but they found room for McMichael.

Dickey, like McMichael, was a minor league signing. He was supposed to be the long man, the mop-up man, a guy who sucked up innings so more valuable pitchers didn't have to.

In April that's what he looked like. His ERA that month (11 innings): 5.73. Nothing great there.

In May, he started getting outs: 1.86 ERA (19.3 innings).

June has been even better: No earned runs so far (11.1 innings). Just four hits and one walk this month.

So on Thursday afternoon, with the Twins holding a 6-3 lead, it was Dickey who got the seventh inning. Not Sean Henn, not the departed Luis Ayala, not the demoted Jesse Crain. He faced three men, none of whom got it out of the infield, and collected his first hold of the season. He threw 10 pitches, seven of them strikes.

Dickey has earned this bigger role. His emergence may slightly diminish the burden on Matt Guerrier (who surrendered a home run in the eighth inning Thursday) and Jose Mijares, but that's OK. The Twins have been aching for somebody to do just that.

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