SARASOTA, Fla. - Jake Arrieta recorded 16 outs in four innings in today's game against the Minnesota Twins' Single-A team at Twin Lakes Park. He stayed on the mound for two extra outs in the first and third innings to increase his pitch count, which stood at 63 - including 45 strikes - once he was finished.
Arrieta gave up two singles in the second inning. His defense committed two errors behind him in the fourth, which also kept him on the mound. His fastball was 94-95 mph.
"Today was primarily getting my work in out of the stretch, getting more comfortable with my timing," he said. "I changed my hand position a little bit, brought them in closer to the body. I'm a little bit taller over the rubber and it's really helping me load and finish all my pitches and command the strike zone the way I can out of the windup."
Arrieta has pitched in two Grapefruit League games, allowing four runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Phillies after shutting out the Rays in two innings in his debut. The stats aren't official today.
"It's just getting the pitch count up, getting your work in, commanding all your pitches," he said. "Today was the best I've been able to do that all spring, for four-plus innings. I'm throwing a lot of strikes, not giving up any free passes, and that's really the emphasis in the spring."
Arrieta did a better job of keeping his body in sync today. In his last start, he was too wide from the stretch and it was causing him to be too quick with his lower body, and his upper body had to catch up. Today, he was a little more narrow over the rubber and his hands were closer to his body, "and that will allow my upper body to be quicker and in time with my lower body," he said.
"That's a timing mechanism I look for in the windup, and if I'm able to get that same feeling from the stretch, I'll have no problem with commanding all my pitches."
Arrieta was around 1.2 seconds to the plate, "and that's right where I need to be," he said. "And with the catchers we're going to have this year, that's going to make their jobs a lot easier."
Arrieta will try to increase his pitch count by 20-25 in his next outing.
"I'm ready," he said. "Today was a very good sign. I felt fresh from start to finish. I commanded the ball very well today, and the sinker was exceptional. I actually threw some backdoor sliders to left-handed hitters, something that I wouldn't normally do until the season. Being able to command that pitch this early is going to be big for me.
"I'm ahead of schedule. I'm right where I need to be. My pitch count will get up, I would assume 80-90 pitches for the first start of the year. And like I told you guys before, I haven't felt this good, and it still stays true. I feel good about it."
Arrieta no longer has to stretch his elbow between innings to regain flexibility after having the bone spur removed.
"It's a non-issue now," he said. "My first couple times out on the rubber, throwing close to full-speed, I had a little hesitation, a little unknown there in the back of my mind about how it was going to feel when I did let it go, especially on my breaking balls. But I was letting it go 90-95 percent today with no signs of pain. I'm very happy where I'm at."