While on a pitcher's mound, Jake Arrieta doesn't mind if he's perceived as cocky.
Honestly, he kind of likes it.
"It doesn't bother me at all," said Arrieta, one of the Orioles' top pitching prospects who was recently promoted to Triple-A Norfolk after dominating at Double-A Bowie. "Off the field, I don't have a big mouth, or say this or that or talk about how good I am. ... If people think I am a [jerk] on the mound, that's fine with me."
Case in point: Arrieta tells a story about a game last year in which he pitched for the Frederick Keys against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. An opposing player, who had reached second, asked Keys infielder Miguel Abreu whether Arrieta were as arrogant as he appeared.
Abreu, who later relayed the tale to his pitcher, informed the opposing hitter that Arrieta was well liked by his teammates.
"If the opposition sees me in that light, that's completely fine with me as long as my teammates know I'm ready to help them any way I can," Arrieta said.
The Orioles gambled on that self-assuredness when they selected Arrieta in the fifth round of the 2007 draft (159th overall) despite knowing his lofty contract demands. The Orioles gave him a $1.1 million signing bonus - low first-round money and significantly higher than the recommended slot bonus of $146,700.
"In his mind, he knows he could be a very good major league pitcher and that's a good thing," development director David Stockstill said. "At the same time, that didn't carry over to the point where it looks like he is cocky or thinks he's above other players. At Frederick, he worked with other players to improve himself as well as them. Several players learned quite a lot from Jake."
Arrieta, who is a sculpted 6 feet 4, 225 pounds and throws a 96-mph fastball, says he is fiercely competitive. The 23-year-old right-hander wants to win - at everything: baseball, pingpong, billiards, whatever.
"I've just always been very aggressive and competitive. I hate to lose more than anything in the world," said Arrieta, who was 6-3 with a 2.59 ERA in 11 Double-A starts before making his Triple-A debut June 12. "When I am out on the mound, every pitch I throw is with a purpose and with a lot of aggression and confidence."
That attitude led one scout this spring to suggest that the Orioles should promote Arrieta all the way to the majors because Arrieta wouldn't be intimidated.
The Orioles, however, took a much more conservative approach. After he went 6-5 with a 2.87 ERA at Frederick in 2008, the Orioles elevated Arrieta one rung to Bowie, where he was for this season's first two months.
"We had targeted him this winter as a guy we hoped would be able to move [to Triple-A] some time midseason, and he has done what we have asked him to do," Stockstill said. "We wanted him to have better command of his fastball and tighten up his slider and make the progress he needed to move to the next level."
Arrieta (0-2, 5.06 ERA) pitched well in his first Triple-A start, allowing a solo homer and one other hit in six innings, but was still tagged with the hard-luck loss. On Wednesday, he lost his second game, giving up five earned runs in 4 2/3 innings. Five of the seven hits he allowed were singles, and one runner scored on a close play at the plate.
"I feel my time in Triple-A so far has been very successful. I am learning how to get Triple-A hitters out," he said. "I am very confident in my ability and my team's ability, and I plan on building on those starts and doing a lot in the future here."
The supremely confident Arrieta understands, however, that his future is expected to unfold at Camden Yards.
"I don't really have a goal as far as when to get there or a timeline. I definitely would like to be up there this year. I think I could help the big league club, even if it's a small way," he said. "But I will continue to work on things I need to work on and progress as a pitcher. It's just going to take care of itself, whether it's next month, the end of the year, next year or whenever.
"Whenever it will be, I will be ready to help."
Tides bits: : Right-hander Chris Tillman, the organization's top pitching prospect, is 5-4 with a 2.55 ERA in 12 starts. The 21-year-old has struck out 67 and walked 18 in 60 innings pitched. He has not allowed more than three runs in any game this year. ... First baseman Brandon Snyder, the organization's top pick in 2005, was promoted Friday from Bowie, where he batted .343 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs in 58 games. ... The average age of Norfolk's current rotation is 23.4. ... In his first seven appearances after his demotion from the Orioles, right-handed reliever Chris Ray was scored on only once. He allowed eight base runners and two runs in his first 11 innings. ... Outfielder Jeff Fiorentino has reached base safely in 21 consecutive road games. He is batting .358 (29-for-81) with three homers and 17 RBIs during that span. ... Left-hander Chris Waters was moved to the bullpen after Arrieta and left-hander Troy Patton were promoted from Bowie. Waters was 6-3 with a 4.76 ERA in 12 games as a starter. ... Outfielder Justin Christian stole 17 bases in his first 20 attempts.