TORONTO - R.A. Dickey energized the Mets during some of the darkest days in the franchise's recent history, winning 20 games on the way to the 2012 NL Cy Young Award.

But manager Terry Collins acknowledged Wednesday that the knuckleballer's most lasting contribution has been in the players he brought to the Mets when he was traded to the Blue Jays in a 2012 blockbuster. "The year he won the Cy Young, we weren't in the hunt," said Collins, who piloted a 74-88 team in 2012. "But what he's brought back has allowed us to be in the hunt. So, the value that he provided this organization was a chance to move a guy and move the organization forward."

The trade of Dickey brought back starting catcher Travis d'Arnaud and fireballing rookie Noah Syndergaard, both of whom are playing a critical role for a Mets team that is in first place in the NL East, 11/2 games ahead of the Nationals.

Dickey, 40, faces the Mets Thursday for the first time since the trade. The knuckleballer is 2-6 with a 5.35 ERA this season for the Blue Jays.

John Mayberry Jr. and Curtis Granderson are the only current Mets to have ever faced Dickey, who Collins called "one of the great stories in all of baseball."

Mayberry has two hits in 13 career at-bats against Dickey while Granderson is hitting .200 with a .333 on-base percentage in 30 plate appearances.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Said Granderson: "You can't really do anything but stay ready to hit and hope you get something in the middle of the plate that you can put a decent swing on before it starts dancing a little bit."

Comeback trail

The Mets are targeting a Tuesday return for Daniel Murphy (quad), general manager Sandy Alderson said. Murphy went 1-for-3 as the designated hitter in an extended spring training game Wednesday in Port St. Lucie, Florida.