One of the biggest surprises of spring training 2012 occurred when manager Buck Showalter named Jake Arrieta his opening day starter.
It became more probable as we inched closer to the day that the Orioles broke camp, but I don’t think anyone saw it coming when pitchers and catchers reported in February.
You probably know the rest of the story. Arrieta blanked the Minnesota Twins on two hits over seven innings at Camden Yards, justifying Showalter’s faith in him, but the right-hander went 3-9 with a 6.20 ERA in 24 games, endured a demotion to Triple-A Norfolk and resurfaced in the Orioles’ bullpen.
Not exactly how the Orioles drew it up.
Arrieta turns 27 in March. That sounds young to me, but he’s no longer regarded as a kid in baseball circles.
One year later, Arrieta is fighting for the last spot in the rotation. I’m still expecting Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman to be in there, though I’ll revisit that prediction if the Orioles re-sign left-hander Joe Saunders.
Arrieta could complicate the entire process with a strong spring, and pitching coach Rick Adair expects it to happen.
“I’m the guy that the glass is always half full, and I still look at Jake that way,” Adair said last night on the “Hot Stove Baseball” show on WBAL Radio.
“I think we have a lot of talent on our pitching staff. Everyone talks about a No. 1 starter and a No. 2 starter and on down the line. You look at Jake, and he probably has the best overall stuff of anybody we have.
“Obviously, he’s fit, in shape, and he competes. I’m really holding out and hoping ... not even a hope. I really think the guy can be a top-of-the-rotation guy. I think he’s going to be that this year. Jake has done a lot of good work and he’s matured a lot. I feel really good about him.”
Arrieta’s name came up a lot during the non-waiver trade deadline. Opposing teams view him the same as Adair, and the Orioles decided to hold onto him.
They can revisit that decision later this year.
Adair is convinced that it was the right one.
Shameless plug alert: I’m joining Tom Davis on “The Mid-Atlantic Sports Report” from 5-7 p.m. on MASN.
Note: The Orioles have signed another independent league player - catcher Zane Chavez, a 19th-round pick by the Royals in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.
Chavez spent last year with Grand Prairie and El Paso of the American Association, which tweeted the transaction earlier today. He batted .339/.373/.498 with 23 doubles, four homers and 51 RBIs in 70 games.
Chavez has spent his entire professional career playing independent ball, beginning with New Hampshire of the Canadian-American Association in 2009.