DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Josh Johnson is taking some pleasure in the fact that he can finally settle into a normal Spring Training routine.
Last year, Johnson's early work was focused on rehabbing from a right shoulder injury the previous season. Johnson had recovered by the time camp rolled around, but was still in definite need of improving his arm strength.
This year, there do not appear to be any health concerns. Johnson says everything with his arm and mechanics are flowing smoothly and now it's just a matter of fine tuning his repertoire before the start of the season.
"This feels a little easier," Johnson said. "Last spring it seemed like everything mechanically was just off, and then once I got to the season it was even worse than that. Even when I was down here early everything came natural.
"Finally felt that natural movement where I could do it and not think about it. Not have to sit there and tell myself to stay back, do this. The checklist is going down, just let it happen now."
Johnson made his second -- and final -- relief appearance of the spring on Saturday afternoon against Philadelphia. He allowed a solo homer to Carlos Ruiz, but besides that, he was perfect through his two innings of work.
The 29-year-old will now transition back into the starting role he's expected to have all year. The only reason he began the spring pitching out of the bullpen was to help R.A. Dickey line up his outings prior to the World Baseball Classic.
The early work so far has been mostly related to fastball command, but along the way, he has experimented with a new sinker to left-handed hitters while also tossing the occasional curveball. One of the next steps will be adding his slider into the mix.
"It'll just come naturally. You keep throwing it in bullpens, flat ground," Johnson said. "I think once you get into that four innings, five innings, six innings, once you get later into games, everything gets a lot sharper. I usually get better later in games."
Dickey feels ready to compete in Classic
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- R.A. Dickey feels confident with the way his first couple of outings in Spring Training went and believes he's ready to take the next step at the World Baseball Classic.
Dickey's time in Blue Jays' camp is about to go on hiatus as he's set to join Team USA for the upcoming tournament. He could be away until March 19, but a lot of that will depend on how the United States fares against its competition.
With plenty on the line, the intensity level is about to dramatically increase, but that's just fine for Toronto's No. 1 starter.
"I think for me, because I felt good today, I know I can step on the gas a little bit more and it'll be OK," said Dickey, who allowed three runs in three innings against Philadelphia on Saturday. "It's good timing because I'm going into a very competitive situation.
"Today was a big stepping stone towards that. I went down and threw another inning in the bullpen. I'm going to have nights in Toronto when I give up two or three in the first or second inning and I still have to fight through six or seven innings. It's a good exercise, even mentally for me."
Dickey's outing versus the Phillies got off to a rough start as he surrendered a pair of back-to-back doubles and a two-run shot to Ryan Howard in the first inning.
The three-run frame put Toronto in an early deficit, but he quickly settled down and retired six of the final seven batters he faced. The numbers might appear to be somewhat inconsistent through two starts, but it generally takes Dickey a little while in spring to get a feel for the knuckleball.
The later in camp it gets, the more effective the pitch becomes. He also still has to add approximately three miles per hour to the knuckleball, and that's expected to happen in his first start for Team USA.
Joining Dickey at the Classic will be Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia. United States manager Joe Torre has yet to announce his plans for playing time, but it's expected that the pair will be used together whenever Dickey is on the mound.
"I anticipate him catching me and I'm pretty sure that's what Joe Torre is thinking," Dickey said. "I don't want to speak for him, but he knows we've been working hard together and that first game I'm sure he's going to want me to feel comfortable and throwing [Joe] Mauer or [Jonathan] Lucroy having not had any experience with me doesn't seem like the smartest decision. But that's up to him."
Reyes relishing hot start to spring
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The calendar has only recently been turned to March, but already Jose Reyes appears as though he's in mid-season form.
Reyes has been one of the Blue Jays' most impressive hitters at the plate this spring. He is hitting .643 (9-for-14) with a home run, three RBIs, a stolen base and four runs scored in five games.
The production from Reyes couldn't have come at a better time for the Dominican Republic. Reyes is set to leave Toronto's Spring Training complex on Sunday to join his national team for the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
"Not that quickly," Reyes said when asked if he's usually a fast starter at the plate during camp. "But this year [my swing] has been ready. But I've been working hard to try to put my swing together as soon as possible because I know I have to go to the WBC."
Reyes is expected to start at shortstop and lead off for the Dominicans just like he would in Toronto. His team is set to begin the tournament in Puerto Rico with the first game on March 7 against Venezuela.
The 29-year-old Reyes will be joined by a slew of Blue Jays including Edwin Encarnacion, Moises Sierra and Ricardo Nanita. Right-hander Esmil Rogers and Melky Cabrera originally were expected to participate as well, but recently withdrew while Jose Bautista did not receive permission to play from the Blue Jays because of last year's wrist injury.
It should prove to be an electric atmosphere in Puerto Rico as plenty of Dominicans live in the area or will make the relatively short trip to watch their stars play on the international stage. It's the type of environment that Reyes says he thrives under.
"I like that, I like the energy," Reyes said. "I'm the kind of guy who plays better when I have a lot of people in the ballpark. I like the energy and the atmosphere.
"I'm feeling good at home plate right now. I'm seeing the ball good, good timing for me because we're going to the WBC, we're going to start playing in a couple of days, but I feel ready."
The other Blue Jays set to appear in the Classic include R.A. Dickey, J.P. Arencibia for the United States and Brett Lawrie, Adam Loewen and Trystan Magnuson for Team Canada.
• Colby Rasmus appears to be on track to return to the Blue Jays' lineup early next week. Rasmus has been out since Wednesday with a sore right shoulder, but could be back in the lineup Tuesday versus Baltimore.
• Utilityman Mark DeRosa was held out of Toronto's lineup on Saturday afternoon versus Philadelphia because of a sore back. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said it was possible that the veteran infielder would be able to play on Sunday.