Jake Arrieta said he doesn’t feel he should be called the Orioles’ No. 1 pitcher, but he sure looked like one today.
Allowing just two hits - both singles - over seven, at times, dominant innings, Arrieta pitched the Orioles to a 4-2 win over Minnesota in front of a sellout crowd of 46,773 at Camden Yards.
Arrieta walked two and fanned four. He faced the minimum three batters in five of his seven innings.
“My mindset today was really to set the tone for our team in front of a great crowd,” Arrieta said. “Lot of excited fans for a new season. It was important to come out and set the tone the way we did. Big day out of (Nick) Markakis.
“As a team we take it personal that most people write us off from the get-go. I think we made a statement today that we’ve got a lot to play for this year.”
Arrieta, who did not allow a hit until the fourth inning, said he won’t lay claim to the ace mantel that was vacated when Jeremy Guthrie was traded.
“I don’t know if I would necessarily say I’m the number one guy at this point in time,” he said. “It could have been a number of guys selected opening day starter. I just want to be a guy who some of other guys can look at and say he will get us to the seventh and eighth inning and put us in a position to win the game. I think I have a ways to go to really establish myself as that guy, but I’m willing to do that.”
Arrieta said he was able to draw on the experience of pitching the home opener last year against Detroit, to help him today. In that game, he gave up just one run over six innings in an Orioles win and he topped that performance this afternoon.
“I think I used my experience last year in the home opener vs. Detroit to my advantage. Very similar situation and atmosphere. I had that experience to look back on. I think I handled it pretty well in terms of staying within myself,” he said.
The right-hander also began to show how important it was for him to have bone spurs removed from his right elbow last August 12.
“I’ve said it a lot, but the rehab process and the work that went along with that made it all worthwhile,” Arrieta said. “I cut down the recovery time as much as I could to start my throwing progression when I did, about a month before schedule. I wanted to be ready for this day. To be on the mound today and be 100 percent, makes it all worth it.”
As usual for Arrieta, command and control are also a big key. Today he walked just the two batters and threw 60 strikes among 97 pitches.
“Avoiding 3-1, 2-1 counts is a big reason why I was able to pitch into the seventh inning today. That’s what I have to do to be successful is be aggressive and throw my breaking ball for strikes early in the game. Getting those guys in swing mode and throwing three or more pitches for strikes really works in my favor,” Arrieta said.
Last year, Arrieta held the opponent off the scoreboard in two of his 22 starts and one of those outings was against Minnesota when he blanked the Twins over six innings on April 19.
Almost a year later, he did it again. This time on a bigger stage and he sent the partisan crowd home happy as the Orioles won their opener for the ninth time in the last 12 years.