Of those in baseball that know Jake Arrieta’s pitching very well, Mike Griffin may know him the best.
He’s been his pitching coach for his 28 starts at Triple-A Norfolk over the last two years.
Griffin is confident Arrieta will do well tonight and can handle making his first career start vs. the Yankees.
“He’s going to be nervous, that’s only human. But you know what, Jake’s going to handle it. He’s going to handle the situation very well, I am totally confident in that aspect of Arrieta, because of the fact of his makeup. That confidence in his ability. He knows he’s a confident person. Jake is going to go out there and he’s not going to back down.”
It’s been said that Arrieta’s confidence can border on cockiness at times, but Griffin believes that can be a key to his success as much as his mid 90’s fastball.
“It’s part of what I call a swagger. He’s got a little swagger to his step. He’s a very confident individual number one, he’s very confident in his stuff, which leads to what I call the swagger in him,” Griffin said.
“Borderline cockiness? You know what, yes, he does have that. That is a good thing. It can be a bad thing in certain ways, if you don’t know how to handle it right, but he knows how to handle it.
“I don’t use the word cockiness, but the word swagger. He does have a swagger to his step. A swagger to his body demeanor on the mound. He shows he is in total control of what he is doing out here. That’s what the swagger is all about.”
Griffin has watched Arrieta’s improvement from a pitcher that went 5-8, 3.93 in 17 Norfolk starts last year to a record of 6-2, 1.85 this year.
“Last year was a good learning experience for him at this level. He had to make some adjustments. He went home during the off season and I talked to him a lot then. He came into spring training and had everything in perspective with what he had to do this year. I give him high praise. He’s a guy that just went out and did the things we asked him to do to get better. All the kudos to Jake Arrieta.
“The fastball to both sides of the plate has really improved since last year. His two-seam fastball has really improved. Actually his whole secondary pitchers have improved, his curveball, his slider and changeup. He’s done a good job of being a pitcher this year. This year he became a pitcher.
“He’s been able to pitch backwards when he has to. Use those secondary pitches when he’s behind in the count to get back into his counts or get some cheap outs when behind in the count. The changeup has been the biggest improvement this year.”
I asked Griffin what the key was to his changeup improving.
“Just using it. Just trusting it and letting it do the work. Mostly just trusting it has been the biggest difference.”
Finally, Griffin is confident that Arrieta will handle his first night in the Majors fine, Yankees or no Yankees.
“I think Jake will do just fine. He’s got a good mental makeup and is very strong minded. He doesn’t back down. Jake is a very confident person.”