CLEARWATER, Florida – Erik Kratzs friendship with R.A. Dickey, he who throws that strange knuckleball, is growing. At 33, back with the Blue Jays organization and tasked with catching a pitch Dickey once described as a "capricious animal," Kratz is a veteran who is evolving under the bright Florida sun. "Its a cool challenge, it really is," said Kratz of catching the knuckleball. "Its something that as any athlete, any competitor will say that the competition, the effort level is something that youre never going to be someone that says, I didnt quite give it all I had today, but in a sense you have to kind of just relax and let the game come to you, which you have to do normally, but as a catcher you kind of have to have that energy." Kratz is like any other ballplayer. Hes been at this game for years and has developed habits that suit his game and have become second nature. Some of these habits are obvious, things youre taught the moment you strap on catchers gear, like giving the pitcher a firm target. Throw up your glove as he enters his wind up. Will your battery mate to locate his pitch. It doesnt work that way catching Dickey. The knuckleballer doesnt want a target. When Dickey is on his game, he has a good idea of where his pitch will end up, but it still can be unpredictable. Kratz is still at the point where hes reminding himself to let his glove rest over his left knee in his crouch, even when Dickey throws his fastball. Kratz has to be consistent every pitch or the hitter could know whats coming. Its a different mindset and he admits he finds it mentally taxing. "Thats something that as a catcher, I take pride in receiving the ball," he said, moving his left hand as if to put up a target. "I take pride in making the pitch look good. Its something that is a hard habit to break, but on the same hand, its something Ive got to be cognizant of that. I call fastball, normally Im like, Hey, lets get it out there; whoops, maybe not because I dont want to tip his pitches." When youre tasked with catching the knuckleball, you have to set your ego aside. "Its a part of my game that I feel is, not to sound conceited, but I feel like Im pretty good at it," said Kratz of his receiving prowess behind the plate. "I feel like Im really good at it. (Catching the knuckleball is) a challenge that is exciting and every time I go out there, kind of at the beginning I was like, jeez, now Im like lets go out there and do it and see what I can get." The battery-mates spend a lot of time together. Dickey says Kratz has "improved" at handling his pitch. The Blue Jays havent publicly committed to Kratz as the second catcher behind Dioner Navarro, saying that the other alternative, Josh Thole, has an extensive history with Dickey and the club needs to see whether Kratz can do the job. Navarro hasnt played in more than 89 games since 2009, making it likely the Jays will need their backup to play more often. Assuming thats the case, the club requires reasonable improvement over Tholes .175/.256/.242 slash line he posted last season. Kratz has hit 18 home runs in 375 at-bats over the last two seasons playing for the Phillies. He is a low batting average, low on-base percentage hitter but he at least is a threat to go deep. Acquired from Philadelphia, along with left-handed pitcher Rob Rasmussen, for reliever Brad Lincoln on December 3, the former Blue Jays draft pick is preparing as if the job is his. Kratz is using a first basemans glove, instead of an oversized catchers mitt, although, he may revert if he finds a prototype with more flexibility. Each time hes catching Dickey in a bullpen session, he simulates game situations in his mind. Kratz will pretend theres a runner on third. If the knuckleball gets by him, chances are that run scores. Its not quite like live game action, but hes trying to put himself in the right frame of mind. Its important not only for himself, Kratz believes, but also for his teammates. He needs to project the right aura. His is the only position each of his teammates can on the field see in front of them. "If you have a bad energy catcher, you have a bad energy team, in my opinion," said Kratz. "The best teams that have guys that are high energy, you look at them and theyre in every play and theyre ready to go." DICKEY WORKS IN TRIPLE-A GAME While the Blue Jays lost a Grapefruit League game 6-3 to the Rays in Port Charlotte on Saturday, R.A. Dickey was pitching in a Triple-A game in Clearwater, against the Phillies Lehigh Valley Ironpigs affiliate. He logged 7 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on six hits and two walks. Dickey struck out two hitters. He threw 100 pitches, 60 of which were strikes. "Its a great mental exercise to come out here and execute your pitches regardless of the situation, surroundings, competition," said Dickey. "Im competing against myself more than I am those guys, anyway, so its a great exercise for me." "I feel more ready," said Dickey. "Now, Im going to take that into the season with me. Its no guarantee that things are going to be perfectly smooth, but at the same time the way that I feel brings a level of confidence with it that I dont have when youre not as prepared. And, yes, I do feel more ready." Dickey has two more starts before he takes the mound on opening day, March 31, against the Rays in St. Petersburg. The first, in which he plans to throw another 100 pitches, will be in a minor-league game, likely on Friday. He will make a shorter start on March 26 versus the Yankees in Dunedin. Fake Vans 2020 . The 24-year-old right winger has one assist in nine games this season with the Sabres. In his career, he has three goals and six assists in 43 NHL games. Fake Vans Website . Redden played a total of 1,023 regular-season games with Ottawa, the New York Rangers, St. Louis and Boston. He finished with 457 points (109 goals, 348 assists) and a plus-160 rating over his career. https://www.vansfake.com/ . After all, the No. 8 seed is chasing far loftier goals. Raonic, from Thornhill, Ont., defeated American Jack Sock 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in Wimbledons second round on Thursday. Fake Vans Cheap .com) - The New York Jets have named Mike Maccagnan their new general manager. Fake Vans From China . The right-hander pitched into the seventh inning and boosted Cincinnatis struggling offence by hitting a double and scoring as the Reds ended a seven-game losing streak by beating the Atlanta Braves 1-0 Saturday night.It seems Vancouver Whitecaps are making progress in their search for a new head coach. Former United States Mens National Team boss Bob Bradley now appears to be the lead contender for the position. Since parting ways with Martin Rennie at the end of the 2013 regular season a number of candidates have been interviewed by Vancouver but it was thought they were waiting to speak with Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis who is out of contract at the Utah club at the end of this year. Now though, it appears the man that tops their list is Bradley. The former U.S. National Team head coach reportedly interviewed with the Caps last weekend and is available for a new challenge after leaving his role with Egypt earlier this month following their failure to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Bradley would be a major catch for any MLS team. Its long been rumoured that he would be coaching in Canada next year, but Toronto rather than Vancouver looked the likely destination. Bradley has a resume that makes him one of the most experienced men to have coached in the North American game. He was an MLS original as an assistant to Bruce Arena in the leagues first season in 1996 and then won the MLS Cup and US Open Cup in his first MLS head coaching role with expansion club Chicago Fire in 1998. That season he was named MLS Coach of the Year. In 2003, the New Jersey native returned home for three years in charge of the New York/New Jersey Metrostars, and after a brief spell leading expansion side Chivas USA he was handed the top job with the United States. Bradleys time as U.S. head coach got off to a successful start winning the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup, setting the tone for a strong spell in charge of the national team. They performed well at the 2009 Confederations Cup, finishing as runner up, and then won their group at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa before losing in extra time to Ghana in the first match of the knockout stages. After leaving his post with the U.S. in 2011, Bradley took on maybe the most challenging role of his career, attempting to lead Egypt to qualification for Brazil 2014. Although, ultimately unsuccessful in getting the Egyptians to the World Cup, the way Bradley galvanized the team and dealt with an incredibly difficult ppolitical situation gained him many admirers around the world.dddddddddddd He meets all the criteria set out by the Whitecaps at the start of their coaching search. President Bob Lenarduzzi said some big name candidates have been turned away because they have no experience in MLS - its thought former Manchester City and England Under 21 boss Stuart Pearce expressed an interest in the position. With Bradley, they get the big name, international experience and a deep knowledge of the North American game. He wont come cheap, so it would be an appointment that would turn heads in MLS and prove to the rest of the league that the Whitecaps mean business. Should talks with Bradley break down, the Whitecaps can either wait to see if Kreis becomes available or turn to current assistant coach Carl Robinson to fill the vacancy. I have an enormous amount of respect for Robinson and I am certain he has a big future ahead of him in the game as a head coach. If the Whitecaps give him the opportunity, he wont let them down. However, Bradleys experience in MLS and at international level would be a massive benefit to the Whitecaps organization. Whoever takes the club forward will have a young squad to work with and also plenty of room under the salary cap for the new coach to put his own stamp on the team. The Whitecaps declined the contract options on eight players this week and there are still other big decisions to be made on key personnel. One such player is club captain Jay DeMerit who is currently out of contract. DeMerit was named to the United States World Cup squad by Bradley in 2010 so if the 55-year-old does take control it would almost certainly lead to a new deal for the defender. These are interesting times in Vancouver. With the 2014 schedule being released there is now a date on the horizon that everyone is building towards. On Saturday, March 8 the Caps will kick off at BC Place against the 2013 Supporters Shield winners New York Red Bulls (live on TSN), but there is much work to be done before then. The Whitecaps have been patient in their search for a new coach, but the next couple of weeks should finally provide the answer as to who will be leading the club heading into its fourth season in Major League Soccer. ' ' '