In a span of nine wild weeks, Jake Arrieta has gone from newly anointed anchor of the Orioles’ young starting rotation to a pitcher so saddled with frustration that the called himself “lost” after his outing Friday night.
The 26-year-old right-hander avoided being sent down to Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday afternoon. Instead, the Orioles have moved their Opening Day starter to the bullpen
Manager Buck Showalter said it was an 11th-hour decision to keep Arrieta in the majors, where he can work through his struggles. Arrieta said he hasn't worked out of the bullpen since fall league in 2007 -- where he threw 18 scoreless innings as a reliever -- but he embraced the change.
"I think it’s going to allow me to get a lot of the thoughts and emotions out of my head and when I come into the game just pitch," Arrieta said shortly after finding out about the move. "My thought process has been way too in depth, and I’ve got way too much going on in my head right now to tweak so many things mechanically rather than going out there and feeling comfortable and executing pitches. That’s what I’m going to be able to do out of the bullpen."
Right-hander Tommy Hunter, who himself has been shuttled between Baltimore and Triple-A Norfolk while battling inconsistencies, was called up from Norfolk to start Saturday’s game against the Phillies at Camden Yards.
Rookie reliever Miguel Gonzalez was optioned to Norfolk, where he will move into the starting rotation.
On Friday night, Arrieta allowed a career-high 11 hits and career-worst nine runs in just four innings of work in a 9-6 loss to the Phillies.
Arrieta entered the season optimistic, saying he felt stronger than ever after August surgery to remove a bone chip from his right elbow. But he has lost eight of his last nine decisions. He’s allowed for or more runs in all eight of those losses, with a dazzling eight shutout-inning outing on May 2 at Yankee Stadium the only win of the bunch. He leads the American League in both loses (eight) and earned runs allowed (52).
In Arrieta’s first three starts this season – which included seven shutout innings of two-hit ball in an Opening Day win over the Twins – he had a 2.66 ERA. But in the 10 starts since, Arrieta owns a 7.71 ERA and has gone past the six inning just three times.
But now, Arrieta says he's at peace with the move to the bullpen.
"Right now, I just feel at ease," he said. "What happened to me in the past month, month in a half, was mentally draining. Those type of things snowball into my next start and going out there and trying to pitch with that type of mindset, it almost feels like you’re already defeated before any runs are even scored, so it feels good to kinda be at ease and clear-minded and just approach this situation with that mindset. And I think everyone will benefit from it."
And with that, here are today's starting lineups: