By Dan Connolly
The Baltimore Sun
2:00 PM EDT, April 22, 2012
Jake Arrieta arrived as a legit, big league pitcher Saturday night at Angel Stadium.
Because after he failed to shut down the Los Angeles Angels with a two-run lead in the fifth inning Saturday, after he imploded and gave up five runs on five singles, three walks and a throwing error during the inning in an eventual 6-3 loss, Orioles manager Buck Showalter didn’t pussyfoot around his 26-year-old right-hander’s performance.
Showalter shows a tendency to protect some of his younger players and won’t criticize them in the media, sometimes accentuating positives when there really aren’t any. The fact that Showalter was critical of Arrieta on Saturday night shows that Arrieta has arrived.
“He’s not a young pitcher anymore, all right? It’s time to win those type of games. We shouldn’t have that type of problems we had,” Showalter said. “We need a shutdown inning there and let’s go. He’s had enough experience to get through that. And he will.”
Showalter was ticked that the Orioles had scored two runs in the top of the fifth against Jered Weaver, who is one of the best pitchers in baseball. And then Arrieta gave it right back, and three more for good measure.
“I’m more interested in the mentality of a shutdown inning after your team scores two runs off one of the best pitchers in the American League,” Showalter said. “You got to pitch that next inning like the seventh game of the World Series.”
Now you might think Showalter is not a fan of Arrieta’s based on his comments. But for those of us who have covered Showalter for the past couple of years, I think it is evident that the opposite is true.
Arrieta has gotten to the point with this club that Showalter isn’t worried about Arrieta’s psyche if he reads the barbed words.
It’s one of those odd but interesting things about Showalter. The man is anti-Ozzie Guillen. He knows exactly what he is saying at all times. There is a thought behind every sentence uttered by Showalter and purpose in his every move.
When the struggling Brian Matusz throws 100 pitches in five innings and gives up six runs (four earned), Showalter tells us about how Matusz is getting better. But when Arrieta unravels after four superb innings – the first time this season Arrieta has really struggled – Showalter takes off the gloves.
“It’s very frustrating, I know for him. ... There’s no way he should be out of that game in the fifth inning [with] the stuff he was carrying. It’s something where we know he’s better than that.”
Showalter is a master motivator and he knows Arrieta is going to hear those words and remember them the next time he is in a similar situation. Showalter has decided that Arrieta doesn’t always need verbal hugs.
And you know what? Arrieta is already predicted that he’ll learn from this.
“That’s what was pretty shocking about the whole fifth inning. I felt like I was in complete control there … and it kind of got out of hand from there,” he said. “So it’s something that won’t happen a lot, I’ll assure you that.”
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