If the Blue Jays hope to leave New York with a win after Sunday's 1:05 p.m. ET series finale against Phil Hughes and the Yankees, they may need R.A. Dickey to battle through his sore back and neck.
Dickey, the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner, has been dealing with tightness on the right side of his upper back since his start at Kansas City on April 13, and it's changing how he pitches. The soreness is making the right-hander lose a bit of velocity on his knuckleball, forcing him to tinker with his release point.
"I can't generate the velocity that I normally can when this condition isn't there, and … that requires a different release point," Dickey said after allowing the Orioles four earned runs in six innings on Tuesday. In that start, Dickey walked five batters -- something he hadn't done since he issued six free passes on Sept. 17, 2011.
"You just don't have what you normally have, and you feel like what you have is good enough to keep your team in it, but it's frustrating, because you want to get more."
"He walked more guys than he normally would … [but] he pretty much shut them down," added manager John Gibbons. "They found some holes on him, but if he pitches like he has been doing, he'll be fine."
Toeing the rubber for the Yankees will be Hughes, who's coming off back-to-back quality outings after a slow start to the season.
Hughes has worked seven strong innings in each of his last two starts, allowing two runs on six hits while striking out six each time, most recently against the Rays on Tuesday.
"I'm making progress," said Hughes, who took a no-decision in both of those quality starts and is still looking for his first win. "I feel like I can be better, but they're certainly steps in the right direction. Any time you win a ballgame, you're happy. ... I just feel like I can be better going forward."
If there's been an issue for Hughes, it's been the home run. The young righty leads the team in home runs allowed with five, and he's coming off a season in which he gave up 35, the second most in the Majors.
That may be a problem against Toronto, which still has plenty of power, despite the club's early-season struggles.
J.P. Arencibia (eight homers), Jose Bautista (seven) and Edwin Encarnacion (seven) are all among the top 10 in the Majors in home runs.
But as the Blue Jays' 9-16 record shows, power hasn't necessarily helped the club win games. That's where the Dickey of old will be needed.
"I'm giving everything I can possibly give, but it feels like going to battle with a three-shooter instead of a six-shooter," Dickey said.
Yankees: Girardi to "go with the flow" at catcher
• With Francisco Cervelli expected to miss at least six weeks with a fractured right hand, manager Joe Girardi has a decision to make regarding who will be catching for Hughes on Sunday.
Chris Stewart caught Hughes' last game, but Austin Romine -- recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday -- will get a look.
"He's going to catch some," Girardi said of Romine. "I'm going to catch Stew [on Saturday], but I'll look at it every day. We've got to see how Austin does when we put him in this situation. And how he does will probably [determine] how much we use him."
"Kind of like what we've had to do this first part of the year, we'll just go with the flow a little bit."
• Kevin Youkilis made his return on Saturday after being sidelined for about a week with a back injury. He went hitless in four plate appearances, but he did draw a walk and score a run in New York's 5-4 win.
Blue Jays: Offense struggling in key spots
• As a team, the Blue Jays are hitting .190 with runners in scoring position -- the lowest average in franchise history after 25 games. On Saturday, Toronto was 0-for-9 in such situations, and the club is 5-for-33 (.152) with runners in scoring position on its current road trip.
• Saturday's loss marked the 10th defeat for the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium since the start of the 2012 season. In that span, the club has posted a 2-10 record in the Bronx.
• Saturday marked the first time the Blue Jays had lost three straight games this season.
The last time Hughes pitched against Toronto, he became only the second Yankees pitcher in history to strike out four batters in one inning. Blue Jays shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria reached on a passed ball, allowing the righty to reach the milestone. Former Blue Jays right-hander A.J. Burnett first accomplished the feat with New York against Colorado in 2011.
Evan Peaslee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.