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Dickey, Arencibia likely won't be strangers

Toronto knuckleballer to have personal backstop, but starter to catch him Monday


DUNEDIN, Fla. -- R.A. Dickey will have a personal catcher this season, and that has been seen as an indication that J.P. Arencibia will get a break from being behind the plate on the days Dickey pitches -- including Opening Day.

Arencibia, though, will be catching Dickey on Monday, when Dickey makes his Blue Jays debut in a Grapefruit League game against the Red Sox. They'll also be teammates on the United States squad at the World Baseball Classic. So it's not as if Dickey and Arencibia won't have some semblance of a working relationship.

Arencibia has voiced his desire that he wants to catch Dickey this season.

"I'm sure he does, and he may," John Gibbons said Thursday. "But he's not making out the lineup. We're going to put the best team out there, what works and what we think is going to work. If it's not J.P., I don't think he's going to have a problem with that. I would be surprised if he did."

The Blue Jays seem more likely to pair Dickey with the backup catcher -- either veteran Henry Blanco or Josh Thole, who caught 27 of Dickey's starts during his Cy Young season last year. That's what makes the backup catcher battle an intriguing storyline in spring camp.

The 41-year-old Blanco is certainly not an unknown commodity at this point, while Thole, with 308 games of experience in the big leagues with the Mets, is obviously not as established. Gibbons said the decision will essentially come down to feel.

"[Performance] is going to be part of it, but it's more than that," Gibbons said. "We'll just watch them both play and see who's the better fit with the team… I like to see the guy who handles the pitchers best, who is the better thrower, who runs a game, you know?"

Dickey's comfort level will also be a factor.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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