LOS ANGELES -- As the Mets' clubhouse at Dodger Stadium opened to the media on Thursday afternoon, a sizable group of L.A.-area reporters swarmed to a locker in the far left corner.
R.A. Dickey's locker.
Dickeymania had made it to Hollywood.
Dickey answered every question about his white-hot pitching, about his journey from conventional pitcher to knuckleballer, about his very personal book. Then he got ready to face the Dodgers on Friday night.
If Dickey continues to pitch well -- he was 11-1 with a 2.31 ERA going into Friday -- the national attention could grow, especially if he is tabbed to start the July 10 All-Star Game for the National League.
Collins said Friday he was concerned that all of Dickey's media responsibilities could have affected his preparation for the Yankees start. Dickey, who had given up one earned run in 482/3 innings in his previous six outings, was touched for five runs in six innings by the Yankees in an eventual 6-5 Mets defeat.
"I do believe that the weekend we played the Yankees, there was too much going on for him," Collins said. "And I hope that right now that he gets back into the routine that he's accustomed to, and that's getting ready to pitch. We're trying to keep these guys on track as far as their routines go so that they every time they turn around, they aren't dragged away doing an interview somewhere, and let them focus on their jobs."
Collins said Dickey is "a bright guy" and "knows how to handle" the attention that has come with his newfound fame. He also said it was just his opinion that the hype affected Dickey's preparation and that Dickey "said it did not."
Asked after Friday night's 9-0 win over the Dodgers -- in which Dickey allowed three hits and struck out 10 in eight innings -- if he agreed with the idea that he had too many obligations before his start against the Yankees, Dickey said: "I did not. I had no less obligation between this start than I did last. It's insignificant as far as I'm concerned."
Of the book, which was released in March and is called "Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball," Collins said: "In the beginning when it came out -- of course, we talk on a daily basis about how things are going -- he said he wasn't going to let it be a distraction. He knew he had the book signings and some other stuff. He set up most of those things so it never got in the way of what he was doing to get ready to pitch.
"And that's been the case until recently. Now all of a sudden, every day he's got stuff he's got to do, and I told him the other day, 'Look, you need to get ready to do your job. That other stuff will take care of itself.' "
Collins, when asked later what Dickey's reaction was, said the pitcher didn't agree that his preparation for the Yankees start was affected.
"I just thought it was that way," Collins said. "I watched all the interviews he had to do -- pulled aside for this and pulled aside for that -- all the hoopla and all the lead-up into the thing . . . That was the first experience we've had of this 'R.A. mania' that's been going on because it's the Yankees and it was home and it was a big deal. Otherwise, it's just been kind of smooth sailing for him, and I hope it's back to being smooth sailing."