As we near the end of the first week of exhibition games, here are some very early impressions of what we’ve seen and heard so far from Florida:
* Jake Arrieta certainly had a dominant outing Friday against Tampa Bay, pitching two scoreless innings where the Rays didn’t get a ball out of the infield. He was hitting 97 mph on the stadium radar gun. Heck, that’s Dylan Bundy territory.
Whether that gun was a tick or two fast or not, what was most encouraging is that Arrieta is pitching pain-free and with confidence after his surgery of last August, where he had bone spurs removed from his right elbow. You never know for sure a pitcher coming off of any procedure is completely healthy until you see him out there in a game and now the Orioles can cross that off the list.
Arrieta told reporters after his outing that it was the best he’s ever felt on a mound as a pro.
“I feel like I could have thrown the whole game today. No soreness, no tightness, just an incredible feeling, really. I’m very happy where I am right now,” he said.
There are those that have always felt that Arrieta has some of the best pure stuff on this pitching staff. He was the hardest O’s starter to hit off last year.
Opponents batting average against:
.253 - Jake Arrieta
.267 - Jeremy Guthrie
.276 - Zach Britton
.288 - Brad Bergesen
.291 - Tommy Hunter
At FanFest, Arrieta talked about how excited he was about this season after that surgery. He told me the arm flexibility he now had would help him tremendously in his ability to spin the ball and throw breaking pitches.
If Arrieta can just gain a little more command and control and cut down on the walks he could produce some nice secondary pitches to go with that mid-90s heater and it could be a special year for him.
* I had a reaction similar to that of many fans when I first heard yesterday that Nolan Reimold had been hit in the face by a pitch. “That guy can’t catch a break and at a time when it looks like he is set to be a starter on this team,” I thought.
The news later, however, was very encouraging as a CT scan didn’t reveal any broken bones in his face. Reimold is bruised and has a loose tooth. It sure could have been much worse. Hopefully he can get back in the lineup pretty soon.
This offseason, whenever I have written about Reimold, the comments have flooded in. It’s clear a lot of fans are in favor of Reimold getting the starting job in left field. They like his hustle and his speed-power combo.
It also seems clear that Reimold has convinced the one man he needed to - Buck Showalter - that now is the time to see what he can do as an every day player for the Orioles.
I’m intrigued to see what Reimold could produce with 500 or more at-bats. I think he could be a plus .800 OPS guy and also think his outfield defense would dramatically improve if he played out there every night.
* Maybe competition does bring out the best in people. It’s very early in the process but a couple of players trying to win a coveted spot on the Orioles opening day 25-man roster, are doing some good things so far.
Outfielder Jai Miller is 3-for-7 with two doubles and four RBIs. He has an OPS of 1.214 after three games. Nick Johnson, trying to come back from various injuries which have derailed various seasons for him, is 2-for-6 with four walks to date for an OBP of .600.
I’ve already written the story cautioning fans to not put too much stock into spring training stats and I shouldn’t do that either. But the players that are on the bubble for roster spots have to do everything they can - in drills, batting practices and/or games - to grab the coaches’ attention.
So far, in a very small sample size, Johnson and Miller are doing that.
Update: The Orioles today announced that they have agreed to terms with 17 players on one-year contracts. They are all players that don’t yet have enough service time to have reached arbitration.
The list of players recently signed includes: Ryan Adams, Jake Arrieta, Josh Bell, Jason Berken, Zach Britton, Chris Davis, Oliver Drake, Ryan Flaherty, Tommy Hunter, Joe Mahoney, Troy Patton, Zach Phillips, Nolan Reimold, Alfredo Simon, Pedro Strop, Taylor Teagarden and Chris Tillman. Additionally, the Orioles renewed the contract of catcher Matt Wieters.