SARASOTA, Fla. — While his teammates were enjoying their only scheduled off day this spring, Orioles righthander Jake Arrieta was getting his work in Monday afternoon at the club's minor-league complex at Twin Lakes Park.
Despite no Grapefruit League game, it was Arrieta's day to throw, so he tossed four extended innings in the Orioles' Class-A minor league game against the Twins.
Arrieta recorded 16 outs in the game, which had added extra outs at the end of innings, and displayed excellent command throwing 45 strikes in 63 total pitches.
Despite the level of competition, the outing was another step forward for Arrieta, who is coming back from season-ending right-elbow surgery last August to remove a bone spur from the joint.
"It's a non-issue now," Arrieta said of the elbow. "The first couple times out on the rubber throwing close to full speed, I had a little hesitation. There was a little unknown there in the back of my mind how it was going to feel when I do let it go, especially on my breaking ball. But I was letting it go at 90-95 percent today with no signs of tightness or pain, so I'm very happy with where I'm at."
Arrieta said pitching on a back field against minor leaguers didn't matter. His main objectives — getting a feel for his pitches and increasing his work load — were the same.
"I think it's just to get the pitch count up and get your work in and commanding all your pitches," he said. "Today was the best I've been able to do that all spring. I'm keeping guys off base, and the balls they are hitting, some weak ground balls. They hit a couple decent shots back to the mound, but I'm throwing a lot of strikes and not giving up any free passes, and that's the emphasis of the spring."
After allowing four runs in 2 2/3 innings in his last Grapefruit League outing, Arrieta said he was still getting used to some mechanical adjustments he made to improve his time to home plate. He's improved his delivery time to 1.2 seconds and is also working on getting his upper half to catch up with his lower half.
"It was a lot better today," he said. "What I was doing last time is, from the stretch I was too wide. That was causing me to be too quick in my lower body and my upper body was having to catch up. Being a little bit more narrow over the rubber, having my hands a little bit closer to my body will allow my upper body to be quicker in time with my lower body. That's a timing mechanism I look for in the windup. If I'm able to get that same feeling out of the stretch, I'll have no problem commanding my pitches."
Arrieta said he was able to throw his breaking pitches for strikes. He called his sinker "exceptional" and said he even threw some back-door sliders to left-handed hitters, something he wouldn't normally do until the season began.
"I'm ready," he said. "Today was a very very good sign. I felt fresh from start to finish. I commanded the ball very well today. I think I'm right where I want to be."
Arrieta will likely throw about 80-85 pitches in his next outing.
Getting back together
The scheduling gods didn't do the Orioles any favors in drawing up this year's Grapefruit League schedule. The Orioles opened the spring with a day-night, split-squad game with half the team going to Port Charlotte to face the Rays and the other have opening the home schedule at night against the Pirates at Ed Smith Stadium.
That forced the Orioles to hold an early mini-camp at their minor-league complex so manager Buck Showalter could bring some of those players up to fill in spots for the doubleheader.
That first game, however, paled in comparison to the past five days, in which the entire squad hasn't been together. The Orioles played back-to-back road games in Lakeland against the Tigers and in Fort Myers against the Twins (two of their longer trips) on Thursday and Friday. The Orioles then spend the weekend separated with split-squad games on Saturday (Red Sox at home and on the road) and Sunday (at the Braves in the afternoon, at home against the Yankees at night).
So after Monday's off day, it will be five days since Showalter has addressed his team as a whole.
"Our club's been discombobulated for five days now," Showalter said. "I'm looking forward to it. There are so many things I want to address, but I can't because everybody's going to different places."
Orioles travel secretary Kevin Buck said that "95 percent" of the team's spring schedule is handed down from Major League Baseball, but there are opportunities to tweak game times.
Now that the Orioles have played their final split-squad game, innings will begin getting scarcer, which means the troster might start to get pared down quickly. Also, the minor leaguers need get their own innings to prepare for their seasons.
Around the horn
The Orioles have no plans as of now to get another MRI on left-hander Zach Britton's left shoulder. Britton was scheduled to pitch with Arrieta in the same minor-league game, but he was scratched because of shoulder inflammation. Showalter said he doesn't believe it's serious, but Britton will be re-evaluated Tuesday. … The Korean Baseball Association's banning of Orioles scouts from amateur games in the wake of the controversial signing of 17-year-old pitcher Kim Seong-min is apparently still in effect. South Korean baseball reporter Daniel Kim linked a Twitter photo of a sign at Guyee Stadium stating the facility was "off-limits to scouts from the Baltimore Orioles."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times