After facing R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson in the National League, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus is happy to have them as teammates.
In his days with the St. Louis Cardinals, Rasmus had one hit in five at-bats against Dickey and four in 14 against Johnson. He also struck out a combined four times.
“I’ve faced Johnson quite a bit,” Rasmus said of the six-foot-seven right-hander. “He was always a fierce competitor. He was always slinging that cheese. And I’m definitely excited to play behind him. I know he’s put it on us some games when I was over with St. Louis. He’s strong, a big dude. Big durable pitcher. That’s going to be a big add for us.
“And R.A. Dickey, I faced him with that knuckleball, he’s tough, man. Now, what he did the last couple of years, I guess he’s learned more about his knuckleball and how to perfect it and what he’s trying to do with it. I’m just excited to see him pitch.”
Rasmus reported to camp Saturday, his southern drawl as pronounced as ever with a mullet-like mountain of hair carefully tucked behind his ears.
The 26-year-old from Alabama hit .223 last season with 23 home runs and 75 RBIs in what was an up-and-down year. The home runs matched his career high, but his average was the worst of his four big-league seasons.
Consistency at the plate is the first order of business in 2013.
Last campaign, Rasmus hit .291 in June but batted just .191 in July, .167 in August and .209 in September.
“This year I’m looking to pace myself a little more,” he explained. “Sometimes I get a little carried away with trying to do too much or when I start struggling, get in the cage and taking more hacks and working on things a little more than I should.
“I’m going to try to take it easy and try to be more consistent throughout instead of just busting it hard at the beginning and kind of falling it off.”
Rasmus also hopes not to let things fester mentally.
“This is a competitive game and I don’t like to lose,” he said. “Sometimes I take that to the extent of overworking myself instead of just knowing that I’m good, get out there and just play the game.”
Rasmus has a close relationship with new hitting coach Chad Mottola, saying he has a good way with younger players.
“He’s a cool dude and he knows what we’re trying to do,” Rasmus said. “I’ve come in this year and talked to him about some things that I’m trying to do. And he’s going to try to keep me there.”
That includes avoiding lowering his hands at the plate, something he noted during some off-season video sessions.
As for the team itself, Rasmus likes what he sees of the additions after a tough, injury-plagued year.
“I remember telling some people last year, you’ve got to ride the low tides to get to the high tides,” he said. “So I think this year will be a good year for us with everybody we’ve got coming in.
“Hopeful this will be our year and we can just ride the high wave and have a good time and win some baseball games.”
Injuries decimated the Jays’ pitching staff last season, which meant stress for the position players.
Rasmus sees the beefed-up Toronto pitching rotation helping keep the hitters off the field and at the plate — “taking some hacks and keeping us more fresh to do damage at the plate.”
“I think we’re definitely going to be dangerous,” he added.
Rasmus and the Jays avoided arbitration in January by agreeing to a one-year contact worth US$4.67 million.
Note: Jays manager John Gibbons cut short his day on Saturday as he deals with the flu.