One look at Jake Arrieta and it's clear: he's about as well conditioned as an athlete can get. The 90-degree temperatures he'll pitch in this weekend and throughout the summer here in Baltimore are nothing - compared to Texas.
While other talented young college baseball players were spending their summers on Cape Cod or working out in high tech air conditioned facilities, Arrieta was trekking through the Texas mud - literally.
After his freshman year at TCU, he played in the Texas Collegiate Summer League. There he met Mike Henneman, the former Detroit Tiger closer who spent eleven season in the big leagues. Henneman owned one of the teams in the league and Arrieta worked out at his facility.
Henneman wanted to prepare Arrieta for the type of mental toughness and physical conditioning he'd need to make it in the big leagues one day, so they headed out to the ranch.
Henneman owned a horse ranch in Prosper, TX. He'd make Arrieta sprint through the mud inside the pens where the horses were held. He'd also have Arrieta throw side sessions in the brutal Texas heat, go ride a stationary bike at a fast pace for a few minutes, and then head back out to the mound to throw more pitches while he was physically exhausted.
Arrieta told me that rigorous training not only toughened him up, it prepared him to dig deep and pitch deep into games on hot days when every pitcher feels overexerted.
Jake credits Henneman with being a major influence in his development on the road to the bigs. He told me it's one of the reasons he feels prepared to deal with the adversity he will face as a rookie pitcher. Arrieta had his first dose of reality in San Diego when he gave up five earned runs in just three innings pitched.
Despite that bump in the road, Arrieta appears very confident in his "arsenal" as he calls it. We'll see how he bounces back in his subsequent starts.