Nickeas ready to catch Dickey's knuckler

Nickeas ready to catch Dickey's knuckler

NEW YORK -- Mets catcher Mike Nickeas had little time to celebrate his first career grand slam. After recording just his second hit in his last 27 at-bats with his eighth-inning home run on Saturday, he arrived at the ballpark on Sunday to find another daunting task -- R.A. Dickey's knuckleball.

"I don't envy any catcher that has to catch a knuckleballer, especially one that can be as good as R.A.'s is at times," manager Terry Collins said. "There's been balls that you just can't catch -- you're happy that it hits the glove and you knock it down. He threw a pitch the other day that the hitter told me the next day moved about two feet to the side. It went by Mike, he struck him out, and he had to go get it and throw him out. That's a tough job back there, and Mike's done a great job."

Nickeas, who has allowed a team-high three passed balls this season, said it's difficult to understand just how difficult it is to catch Dickey's specialty pitch until you're behind the plate. He said the movement on Dickey's knuckle ball in his last outing in Pittsburgh was the most he'd seen this season.

"Everybody knows and gives you leeway when one gets by you," Nickeas said. "They expect it because of the knuckleball, but still as a catcher you feel like you should at least stop every one. It is frustrating when they do get by."

Nickeas has been called on to catch Dickey's last three starts while starting catcher Josh Thole recovers from a concussion. Backup catcher Rob Johnson caught for Dickey when the two played together in Seattle, but the right-hander had yet to develop his knuckleball.