There was Jake Arrieta on Sunday, on a big-league mound, tossing another useful start for the Orioles. Sure, before Matt Wieters’ game-winning home run in the eighth, Arrieta was close to picking up his 10th loss, even though he only surrendered one run.
But hey, Arrieta knows close calls: less than three weeks ago, he was nearly sent down to the minors before the organization decided he’d be better off working through his struggles in the bullpen.
All season long, trouble has found Arrieta when he over-thinks things on the mound. So does Arrieta think about where he’d be if he were sent down to the minors?
“No not really,” he said. “If I were to get sent down at that point, I’d still be in the same spot today. I would’ve ironed out the adjustments mentally and reestablished my focus on what’s really important and gone from there.”
Arrieta didn’t have too much time to refocus. After moving to the bullpen, an injury to Brian Matusz and the need to get Jason Hammel some rest put Arrieta right back into the rotation. Since then, Arrieta has been solid in three outings, with the exception of one pitch that led to a grand slam against the Mets.
Simplification is the key for Arrieta. The Orioles' opening day starter said he has worked pitching coach Rick Adair to get to the point where he no longer needs to think about his mechanics on the mound. He can just throw.
Manger Buck Showalter said Arrieta has better command of his fastball and has become more effective throwing away from his arm-side of the plate. But Arrieta needed the wake-up call to put his struggles into perspective.
“I just learned a lot about myself,” Arrieta said. “Not really as a player but as a person. And when you go through struggles like that you really start to find out a lot about yourself and what it takes to compete at a high level especially here in the big leagues.”