While his teammates were enjoying their only scheduled off day this spring, Orioles right-hander Jake Arrieta was getting his work in Monday afternoon at the club’s minor league complex at Twin Lakes Park.
Arrieta recorded 16 outs in the contest, which added extra outs at the end of innings, and displayed excellent command tallying 45 strikes in 63 total pitches.
Despite the 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 hesitataion. 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. Thay 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 improved his time to 1.2 seconds -- and said he struggling 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 wind-up. 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 would likely throw about 80-85 pitches in his next outing.