How RA Dickey Returning to Ace Status Would Transform Blue Jays' Rotation

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How RA Dickey Returning to Ace Status Would Transform Blue Jays' Rotation
J. Meric/Getty Images

Jose Reyes' return to the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday was overshadowed by R.A. Dickey's masterful pitching performance, as he held the Tampa Bay Rays to just two hits in a complete game shutout.

Dickey looked like the ace that the Blue Jays thought they had traded for this past offseason as he made Evan Longoria and company look foolish at the plate.

Dickey's gem got Toronto fans excited about baseball again after his slow start to the year, going 7-8 with a 4.72 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP.

The real question now facing Dickey and the Jays is whether or not he is "back."

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Dickey was supposed to join Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson in Toronto to form one of the best starting pitching staffs in MLB. These three were supposed to fix a Blue Jays pitching staff that ranked 26th in ERA in 2012, but none of the three have an ERA below 4.60.

However, Dickey's gem could show that he has finally figured things out in the American League, and he could be on the verge of returning to form in the second half of the season.

Dickey's return to glory would be huge for a Toronto team that is 39-38 and in last place in the tough AL East.

Tyler Kepner of the New York Times quoted Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos on June 22 talking about how his team is being forced to come from behind to get back into the playoff race:

The biggest thing for us is we’re going as far as our rotation takes us. Two weeks ago, we were still last in the A.L. in starters’ E.R.A. We may not be first or even fifth or sixth, but I felt pretty confident we had way too much talent to be last. How much better we get is debatable, but we knew there’d be some good performances to come.

We’re playing better, but we couldn’t have played worse. We’re still a million miles from the other teams in our division. We’re trying to stay on an even keel; there’s so much more work to do.

Anthopoulos also talked about the team's expectation of Dickey coming into the season:

Our scouts thought he could come in, throw strikes, compete and get ground balls. I don’t think anyone was thinking about anything more than that. If we catch the ball behind him and score some runs, with our bullpen, we’ve got a chance to win some games.

The team is clearly getting better as the season goes on, improving from a 10-21 record on May 4 (third worst in MLB) to a game over .500 and just 3.5 games back of the AL Wild Card.

J. Meric/Getty Images

Even with the team's biggest offseason pitching prizes struggling on the mound, Jose Reyes being sidelined for 66 games, prior to Wednesday, and Melky Cabrera underachieving, the team remains just a few games out of the playoffs as we near the All-Star Break.

The Blue Jays remain one of the most talented teams in baseball. With three legitimate aces, one of the best bullpens in baseball and three former All-Stars in the lineup, the Blue Jays have all the pieces for a late-season run to the postseason.

But everyone has to perform, and that includes Dickey.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

While this one gem is definitely and encouraging sign, it is not a guarantee of anything.

Blue Jay fans know that the man at the top of their rotation has struggled mightily this year, pitching more than seven innings only twice before Wednesday and surrendering six or more earned runs six times. The team was also 4-8 in his 12 starts before June.

If, however, Dickey can pitch the way he did last year on a consistent basis and use his knuckleball to fool hitters, the Blue Jays have a good chance of making the playoffs.

The return of Reyes, the reemergence of Dickey and the potential dominance of Jose Bautista would be a huge shot in the arm for a struggling team, and Dickey has the potential to be the centerpiece of the rise of the Blue Jays this year.

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