Arrieta Excited About 2012 Comeback

Arrieta is looking to storm back from season ending injury in 2011.

You can count right-handed starter Jake Arrieta among the Oriole hurlers that view their new pitching acquisitions as a good thing. After nabbing his first 10-win season in 2011, Arrieta spent part of Oriole's Fan Fest last Saturday talking about the various pitching additions to the O's 40-man roster and spring training group. “I think that's a good thing. The more competition…[is] gonna bring the best out of the guys.” After improving in a number of statistical categories in his second season, Arrieta probably doesn't need to worry much about his place amongst the growing pitching staff. Still, season ending surgery in August makes Arrieta hungry to get back out there and continue what he started last season. He also knows he's viewed as a starter by Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette and Manager Buck Showalter going into spring, and accepts the responsibility that comes with it.

“As far as my role, I think that he expects me to come to spring training and be one of the starting pitchers on this team to open the season,” said Arrieta when asked about Duqette. “That's what I expect of myself…to pitch healthy all season, and be a guy they can rely on to go 200+ innings this year.”

Innings pitched will be a key area for a pitching staff that saw only three pitchers go over 115 innings. (Arrieta was one, Jeremy Guthrie and Zach Britton were the others). Indeed, prior to having the surgery for a bone spur in his throwing elbow Arrieta had increased his innings pitched from 100.1 in 2010 to 119.1 last season, and also improved in a number of other key statistical areas. He got to 10 wins with over two months left to play and wound up finishing second on the team to Britton's 11. In areas Jake could directly affect he raised his strikeout total by more than 40 and increased his strikeouts per nine innings ratio from 4.7 to 7.0, a dramatic improvement. His walks per nine innings ratio stayed steady, while the increase in strikeouts improved his strikeout to walk ratio from 1.08 to 1.58. He also dropped his hits per nine innings ratio below the 9 hit mark and also lowered his WHIP to 1.458.

Still, there are a number of areas Arrieta wants to improve upon. From a statistical perspective, his ERA of 5.05 was particularly high, and he almost doubled his HR allowed per nine innings rate to 1.6. While he didn't cite statistics at Fan Fest specifically, he did talk extensively about what he wanted to work on heading in to Sarasota. “I think to be a more consistent pitcher from start to start,” said Arrieta of his personal goals. “I was able to pitch very well at times and then I had set backs.”

He talked about Jeremy Guthrie as somebody that he wants to emulate when it comes to consistency and innings pitched. “He's able to go out there and you know you're gonna get 6, 7 innings out of him regardless of [whether] he struggles or not,” said Jake of the Oriole's most veteran starter. “He's gonna give you innings. That's why he's so valuable to this team.” Indeed, Guthrie was the only 200 inning pitcher on the O's staff last season, finishing with a decent 4.33 ERA in 32 starts.

In order for Arrieta to reach his goals he'll have to continue what has been a phenomenally smooth rehabilitation process. “I really haven't had any set backs,” said Arrieta of his work coming back from the August surgery. “Soreness you go through during that period of your off season,” he said about what he deemed pretty typical aches and pains during the extended time off, regardless of injury. “Outside of that I've been 100% healthy and very encouraged by my progress…[I] had a great physical therapist,” he said of the woman helping him with coming back to full form. “I did a lot of things outside the box, but I really appreciated her time that she spent with me for two, two and a half months. “

He played a lot of the 2011 season dealing with the injury, and did everything to avoid surgery that he could. He believes he went about it the right way, despite suggestions that maybe he should've taken care of it sooner. “I would be alright most of the time as the game started but there were times where I'd come in after the first inning and really tighten up,” he says of how the spur affected his abilities. . “After that New York start, mid July we really came to the conclusion that it wasn't gonna get any better. That's when we decided, you know go ahead get it done.”

Jake seems excited and optimistic about his abilities now that bone spur is out. “Going out this year and knowing in the back of my mind that that won't be something that comes up from start to start…I think mentally, knowing that's not in my elbow anymore I'm gonna be a lot better for it.”

If Arrieta (aged 25) can continue to improve along with a young staff comprised of the 24 year old Britton and the almost 25 year old Matusz, then the loaded AL East could be in for quite the rude awakening this year. The other half of the pitching battery, 25 year old gold glove catcher Matt Wieters, is just one piece of a heavy hitting Orioles team that saw four players hit at least 20 home runs last year (including Wieters). That run production, combined with improved pitching, could make the O's formidable.

Along with youth, one of the greatest strengths of this pitching staff could be its comradery. The group, led by possible starter Tommy Hunter, was a laugh riot on stage last Saturday. They kept the fans in stitches with their loose banter, and Arrieta spoke to that closeness back stage. “We've got a great group, we've continued to build the relationships on and off the field,” he said of the team's togetherness. He also spoke to the lack of a negative element that can sometimes come with a lot of competition. “We're all pulling for each other. No matter what happens we're gonna be happy for the guys who do make the team.”

He highlighted that spring training certainly isn't the end of the opportunities for guys who may not impress enough in Sarasota. “Some guys that do start the year in the minor leagues, they're obviously gonna get their opportunities.” He expounded on that by alluding to the kinds of things that decimated their staff last year, namely injuries. “We usually don't end the season with the same 5 guys that started in the rotation…so you know guys will get their opportunities to pitch well.” Still, he certainly doesn't wish for injuries on anyone, but at least he knows that there will be plenty of able arms waiting in the minors in case injuries should occur.

One simple quote seemed to sum up Arrieta's feelings about the coming Oriole's season. While it may be a typical baseball colloquialism for a lot of teams, it seems Arrieta and others may have reason to believe that it applies more to their squad than others. “Spring's right around the corner,” he said about the inevitable start to the season, “and I'm really looking forward to it.”

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