Jake Arrieta said he's going into his next start Monday against the New York Mets at CitiField refreshed and with a much better frame of mind than the cluttered one of frustration he experienced before being demoted to the bullpen.
Arrieta, the Orioles' Opening Day starter, only spent a few days in the bullpen and never made an appearance there before receiving a spot start Wednesday against the Pirates. He took advantage of the opportunity with a seven-inning, one-run outing against Pittsburgh.
Now suddenly back in the rotation, Arrieta said he's regained his confidence. He's also leaned on teammate Jason Hammel, who used a demotion to the bullpen last year in Colorado to re-invent himself into the Orioles' top pitcher this season.
During Arrieta's bullpen session Friday, rookie Ryan Flaherty stood in the batter's box to simulate an actual game at-bat. For Arrieta, he forced him to narrow his focus and pitch solely to the catcher's mitt and not consider the hitter.
"That's something that I've talked to Hammel a great deal about and one of the things that really helped him turn the corner," Arrieta said. "Instead of picking up the target and the hitter as one big area, he's started to refine his sights to even a small spot on the glove and even take the hitter completely out of the equation.
"In the past, I've placed too much emphasis and focus on the hitter. And by doing that, when your vision is focused on a broad area, your command isn't going to be as sharp or as refined. Having Flaherty stand in for my bullpen was huge. I really try to not even see him in the box."
It seems like a slight adjustment, but Arrieta is optimistic it will help him in his first career start against the Mets.
"I've always been focused. It's more of knowing where to emphasize your focus," he said. "My focus, in the past, has been too broad and too broad of an area, sometimes letting the hitter dictate where I command certain pitches. If you completely take that hitter out of the question, [then you can] execute pitches and command the ball like you do in a bullpen.
"So having a hitter stand in, and seeing myself execute the way I did in the bullpen, that's a stepping stone for me. That was a big part of the learning process. I plan on doing that for every bullpen from here on out until I feel that I've completely eliminated the hitter from the equation."
Jones limiting swings because of wrist
Center fielder Adam Jones is still experiencing pain in his left wrist, prompting him to make pre-game adjustments to make sure he can remain in the Orioles lineup.
The key has been limiting the number of swings he's taking. Jones has been icing the wrist — he was hit on the wrist by a pitch by Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow on May 30 — before and after games and hasn't taken batting practice in the past five games.
Jones had MRIs on both wrists earlier this month. Both were negative. He's started in all 67 games this season and had hits in 30 of his past 36 games and is hitting .328 in that span. After Sunday's 2-for-3 effort, Jones is hitting .389 (19-for-49) with three homers and seven RBIs in 12 interleague games this season.
He's the only Orioles starting outfielder not on the disabled list. Left fielder Nolan Reimold is on the 60-day DL with a bulging disk in his neck and right fielder Nick Markakis is still about two weeks away from returning from wrist surgery.
Roberts gets day off
Second baseman Brian Roberts had his first day off since returning from a 13-month absence Tuesday. Orioles manager Buck Showalter wanted to give him Sunday's day-after-night contest off.
Showalter said he spoke with Roberts' doctor, Dr. Micky Collins, and they agreed Sunday would be a good day to give Roberts off.
"Robby doesn't like it," Showalter said. "I talked to him about it yesterday during [batting practice] and again after the game. He wants to play today, which is a good thing. We want him to play with us; you see what he means when he's out there. It's not a lot of fun not writing his name in the lineup when he's here and active, but I think it's prudent at this point."
Showalter said he didn't know how well Roberts — who drove in three runs in the Orioles' 5-0 win on Saturday and is hitting .318 (7-for-22) in five games since his return — would adjust to the big league game after not playing in the majors since May 16, 2011.
"With as much time as he's had off, I don't think anybody knew," Showalter said. "I think because of the way he went about the rehab, he didn't short-change it at all. I think he alleviated a lot of thoughts in his head. That was a big part of taking it slow, to make sure mentally he knew he was able to do this again at the level that he has spoiled us with. It wasn't like it two- or three- or four-game thing and he comes up there and there's still a lot unknown. I think at each level he was able to handle it and recover each day."
Around the horn
The Orioles expect to get results of Reimold's visit to a Baltimore neurosurgeon late Monday. An MRI taken this week showed that the bulging disk in his neck was improving, but it didn't explain why Reimold is still experiencing tingling in his left arm and hasn't regained his strength. The neurologist wouldn't say if Reimold's injury is nerve-related. … Right-hander Matt Lindstrom (middle finger) is scheduled to pitch for the Orioles' Gulf Coast League team Monday. … Right-hander Chris Tillman allowed just one run on three hits in six innings, striking out eight and walking two in the Tides' 6-1 win over Toledo on Sunday. Over his past five starts for the Tides, Tillman is 3-2 with a 2.56 ERA, allowing just nine earned runs and 17 hits over 31 2/3 innings. … Even though left-hander Zach Britton owns a 6.89 ERA and allowed five runs on eight hits in five innings Saturday, Showalter said he liked how Britton battled back from a three-run second inning.
twitter.com/eddieintheyardCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times