Blue Jays use caution in lifting Dickey after six strong

Toronto knew of stiffness in righty's neck, back prior to finale vs. White Sox

Blue Jays use caution in lifting Dickey after six strong

TORONTO -- R.A. Dickey cruised through six innings, but was removed from Thursday's 3-1 win against the White Sox for precautionary reasons with neck and back tightness in the seventh.

"There was no reason to push it," Dickey said. "We had the lead, and it progressively got worse throughout the game."

Although it surely had Blue Jays fans crossing their fingers when manager John Gibbons and trainer George Poulis came to the mound, with the memory of last year's starters health woes still fresh, it was an issue the team was aware of before Dickey even took the mound for Thursday's series finale.

The 38-year-old has been dealing with stiffness between the shoulder blade and his spine on his right throwing side since his last start Saturday in Kansas City.

"I was able to get through another inning and a third after I felt it [in Kansas City]. It got better throughout the course of the week, enough so that I felt comfortable taking the ball [Thursday]," Dickey said. "Hopefully it will continue to get better between each start."

The tightness became an issue in the sixth after Dickey struck out White Sox outfielder Dewayne Wise for the second out. The veteran showed visible signs of discomfort on the mound afterward, leading to Gibbons and Poulis coming to the mound to attend to the knuckleballer.

Dickey remained in the game to face Jeff Keppinger, throwing only one pitch and getting him to fly out to left field, but he did not return for the seventh inning.

"The most I felt it was that last inning," Dickey said. "I had gotten up and sent down so many times since I first felt it, so it was just getting tighter and tighter."

Dickey threw only 64 pitches in his six scoreless innings, allowing only two hits and one walk while striking out seven.

"I had a knuckleball tonight where I would've thrown a complete game tonight with that, so it's unfortunate that it acted up on me," Dickey said.

"He gutted it out," added Gibbons. "He looked pretty good tonight. [There was a] big drop in that thing. It didn't look quite as hard, but it was almost like he was getting more life on that thing."

It's too early to speculate whether Dickey will make his next start in Baltimore on Tuesday, but the Blue Jays and their ace are both optimistic.

"He's a tough guy, I'm sure we'll see him in five days," Gibbons said.

Evan Peaslee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.