“Very frustrating for Matt,” Showalter said. “He’s as good as there is at putting fingers down. Most of us are looking at how we’re failing him.”
Arrieta didn’t fail last night. Making his first start for Triple-A Norfolk, he tossed six scoreless innings and didn’t walk a batter. Arrieta allowed three hits and struck out eight. He also got seven groundball outs.
The walk total jumps out at you with such force, you should check to make sure it didn’t leave a bruise. Arrieta issued 16 free passes in 19 innings with the Orioles.
He threw 54 strikes among his 94 pitches last night, so there’s certainly room to improve his command, but it was a step in the right direction.
Not that his dominance of a minor league team comes as a major surprise to the Orioles. They’re more concerned about his mental approach and are trying to figure out ways to keep his emotions from affecting his mechanics.
Arrieta worked with a sports psychologist in the past and the Orioles talked about setting him up with someone new after they optioned him.
“It’s hard,” Wieters said. “I’ve known Jake for a long time, so to see a guy have to go down ... but sometimes that’s what you need to be able to figure some things out.
“For me, it’s really feel for Jake. Throughout the course of a game, occasionally he’ll just lose the feel for his fastball or even his breaking ball. And that’s where he gets himself in trouble. If he goes eight, 10 pitches without the feel, then all of a sudden you’ve got two guys on and an inning starts.
“I think a big thing for him is just finding some sort of key, where he can get back to a feel that he has a comfort level with.”
Arrieta cruised through the first two innings in his last start, then needed 37 pitches to get through the third. Wieters called time at one point and went to the mound in an attempt to get Arrieta back in a groove.
“It’s really just trying to give him something where he can refocus to go back to what he was doing the first and second inning,” Wieters said. “Get some sort of key where he can just key back on something he did positively early in the game, and that hopefully will be able to kick in and he can figure it out for the next four or five innings.”
Arrieta will make another start for Norfolk. He has to stay down at least 10 days unless he’s replacing an injured player, so he never was a consideration for Monday in Seattle.
That assignment will go to Zach Britton or Freddy Garcia. Britton hasn’t been needed in relief since the Orioles recalled him on Thursday, and he’s on the 40-man roster.