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Orioles had to swallow bitter pill, trade Jake Arrieta

The Orioles’ patience with Jake Arrieta ran out Tuesday, and you can’t really blame them for giving up on him.

A couple of years ago, Arrieta appeared to be the most promising of “the cavalry,” the nickname that former manager Dave Trembley gave to the Orioles’ top starting pitching prospects. That group included Arrieta, Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Jason Berken. They all have had mixed results, but none might have been more up and down than Arrieta, who either dazzled or was a dud whenever he took the mound.

Arrieta went 6-6 with a 4.66 ERA in 2010 and 10-8 with a 5.05 ERA in his second season. He was the team’s Opening Day starter in 2011, but struggled the past two seasons, going 4-11 with a 6.38 ERA. When he wasn’t running up his pitch counts and exiting games early here in Baltimore, he spent time in the minor leagues.

It became clear this season that Arrieta needed a change of scenery, that the Orioles had gotten all they were going to get out of a 27-year-old righty who has oodles of talent but too often got inside his own head when things started to go wrong.

“I think that is really the best way to look at it,” Arrieta said about the deal giving him a change of scenery. “This is something that is going to do me a lot of good. … I look forward to starting over, but also bringing my past experiences of everything I’ve done and the ways I have grown as a player and a person. And I plan on bringing that to Chicago in a positive way.”

Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette agreed that a fresh start would be a good thing for the 2007 fifth-round pick.

But if Arrieta, who was traded along with fellow enigma Pedro Strop in the Scott Feldman deal, can conquer what ails him in Chicago, the Orioles may one day regret giving him away.

If he Arrieta becomes an ace -- and if Feldman doesn’t help take the Orioles where they want to go this fall -- the front office will get ripped for giving up on a guy with that much talent.

Still, they had to end the relationship. Arrieta was of no use to the Orioles before the trade. They are in the middle of a playoff race in baseball’s deepest division, and they couldn’t give him another chance to find his way in the majors. And there was nothing left for him to prove in Triple-A Norfolk, where his results were inconsistent and underwhelming to say the least.

As my colleague Peter Schmuck wrote Tuesday, the Orioles had to take the risk to acquire Feldman, a back-of-the-rotation starter who can help them now. You can argue about the return the Orioles got on Arrieta and Strop, but they had to give up on Arrieta and give him a chance to salvage his career elsewhere.

Because it was clear that he wasn’t going to do it here. They had no choice but to swallow the bitter pill and let Arrieta go.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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