Jake Arrieta: Trial by Fire

Jake Arrieta will be the O's starter for their home opener and is hoping to build off of last year.

Last season when rookie Jake Arrieta was called up to start his first major league game, he was likened by former manager Juan Samuel to be thrown in the fire. In the June 10th game against the New York Yankees, he was facing a team with a payroll of just over $191 million with stars such as Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira to name a few. For many first time pitchers it could have been disastrous, not for Arrieta. He finished the game with a win after going 6 innings, giving up 3 earned runs and striking out 6 Yankees. Arrieta was greeted with a congratulatory shaving cream pie in the face as he completed his post-game interview.

For many, it was an excellent start to a Major League career. For some of Arrieta's colleagues in AAA affiliate Norfolk Tides, it wasn't surprising that Arrieta would pitch well. Chris George, one of Arrieta's closer friends in AAA last season, knew it was a matter of time before Arrieta would get the call up. Like a scene out of the movie “Good Will Hunting”, George said he would look at Arrieta's locker to see if his belongings were no longer there.

"I keep looking over there to see if he has his stuff packed yet. We all know it's inevitable." said George.

Arrieta is one of the most experienced young pitchers in the rotation. Drafted in the 5th round of the 2007 draft, Arrieta already had some seasoning after pitching 2 seasons at Texas Christian University. In 2008 Arrieta's name suddenly gained attention as he pitched for Team USA in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and defeated the China national baseball team 9-1 with 7 strikeouts. In just over two years' time in the minor leagues, Arrieta compiled a career record of 23-18 with a 2.89 ERA and a 332/141 K/BB ratio.

A number of scouts felt that Arrieta was overrated as a college pitcher as his fastball's velocity dropped from 91-95 MPH to 88-91 MPH during his second year, dropping his value as a first round pick to 5th round instead. Orioles' minor league coaches were able to rectify this and allowed for Arrieta to gain better command of his pitches on both sides of the plate. Arrieta's slider is also what will make him successful in the Majors as it's considered a plus pitch. However he still needs to have better command as doing so will make him more difficult to hit.

In his 2011 season, Arrieta will still need to show that he can handle a full season of consistent pitching and command in Baltimore. His first start of the season will be Opening Day in Camden Yards on April 4, 2011 and is expected to pitch in front of a full capacity crowd. Arrieta worked with his pitching coach from Norfolk Mike Griffin during Spring Training along with teammate Brian Matusz and felt that he was maturing and becoming more focused. Arrieta will need to control his walks and pitch deeper in games by working on his command and limiting his pitch counts per innings. To do so would ensure that the Orioles have a strong enough rotation to be spoilers of 2011.

2011 Projected Stats: 8-12 W/L, 4.50 ERA


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