Just after the clock reached 2 a.m. on the east coast early Friday morning, the Orioles’ leash on struggling Opening Day starter Jake Arrieta snapped.
Following his second straight outing of a season-worst 3 2/3 innings, Arrieta became the third member of the Orioles’ Opening Day starting rotation to be told, ‘It’s not good enough,’ and sent to Triple-A Norfolk.
Arrieta (3-9, 6.13 ERA) probably had more chances that Tommy Hunter and Brian Matusz before him, simply because of his performance this spring to earn the Opening Day starter nod.
But following Thursday’s 9-7 loss to the Angels, Arrieta – undoubtedly one of the most thoughtful players on the Orioles roster -- couldn’t make a solid case to make another start.
“As far as getting another start, I really don’t know,” Arrieta said just minutes before the club announced his demotion. “I would like to say yes, but with the struggles and with the way the first half was, you know, who knows? I mean, am I confident that things are going to turn around and be more positive in the second half? Yeah, absolutely. There’s no question about that, but right now the first half ended on a bad note. But I can’t worry about it too much.”
Unlike past starts, where flare hits and one or two bad pitches led to trouble, Arrieta said Thursday that nothing was working for him against an Angels team that came back from separate three-run and four-run deficits against Arrieta.
“That’s what hurt the most tonight, really,” Arrieta said. “The command of my breaking balls, change up I didn’t have a change up at all tonight, threw a couple sliders. I was doing my best to attack them and it turned out poorly.”
Arrieta issued leadoff walks in the bottom of the second and fourth innings, both times just after big offensive innings from the Orioles in the top half. In the second, he issued back-to-back walks to open the frame. Both scored. In the fourth, the walk opened up a five-run fourth for the Angels.
“Command was an issue from the get go,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
It even prompted a mound visit from Showalter – something typically reserved for pitching coach Rick Adair – in the fourth, a show that Arrieta was down to his final straw.
“He was upset with me and I was upset with myself,” Arrieta said. “It just wasn't working. Just nothing went well from the get-go tonight.
“I was really, really uncomfortable, couldn’t establish any of my pitches.”