After he met with manager Buck Showalter and was told he was staying in the big leagues for now but being moved to the bullpen, Orioles right-hander Jake Arrieta told reporters he was embracing the move.
Was he surprised to get that news?
“Not really,” Arrieta said a few minutes ago in the Orioles clubhouse. “Being in a situation like going to the ‘pen right now will do a lot of things for me. One, it’s going to allow me to get some of the thoughts and emotions out of my head. When I come into the game, just pitch.
“My thought process has been way too in-depth, and I’ve got way too much going on in my head right now trying to tweak so many things mechanically rather than going out there and just feeling comfortable and executing pitches. And, that’s what I’m going to be able to do out of the bullpen.”
Arrieta gave up a career-high nine runs in four innings last to fall to 0-6 with an ERA of 9.34 over his last seven starts.
“I could have gotten sent down (to Triple-A,) but they feel like I bring a lot to this team, and I feel the same way,” Arrieta said. “A lot of people around this organization and the league also feel that way, so it’s a good feeling to know they feel that highly of me. I really appreciate the opportunity to throw with a group of guys like we have in our bullpen. That’s an elite group of guys, and I plan on going down there and being just as valuable as any guy out there. I know I’m capable of that. This will give me the chance to just go out there, be clear-headed and throw.
“What it boils down to is not having so many thoughts go through your head and just go out there and let it fly. I feel really good right now, and this kind of eases my mind to know they feel that way about me.
“I’ve been complimented so many times, and I hear so many good things from my teammates and the staff and everyone around the league. I have to remind myself that I am pretty good. Just stop worrying about stuff and just go out and pitch.
“I talked to my dad for a long time last night. I told him if I do get sent down, I’m not worried about. If that is what needed to happen for me to get where I’m going to go, so be it. I would have no hard feelings toward anyone in the organization. I felt the team would make the right move to put me and us in the best position to win games. They will do what is best for the team.”
In over 100 career games in pro ball, Arrieta pitched just once out of the bullpen, in an outing at Norfolk in 2010. He was asked when was the last time he pitched consistently as a reliever.
“In real competition, it would be in the (Arizona) Fall League in ‘07 right after I got drafted, and I threw 18 scoreless innings in the Fall League. I am very capable of pitching at a high level out of the ‘pen, and I look forward to this opportunity.
“I do want to be a starter, and in the long run I will be a starter, but right now, at this point in my career, the move to the bullpen will help me get back on track.”
I asked Arrieta if he needed more work with mechanics or with the mental part of the game to return to his early-season form.
“It’s about several things,” he said. “It’s about not harping on mechanical adjustments in game. If my thought process is more focused on making mechanical adjustments rather than executing pitches and getting guys out, then it’s going to be hard to have success. I will be constantly worrying about past pitches and at-bats. All my focus needs to be geared toward the next pitch and the next batter, and I just have to get back to that.”
A reporter suggested that this move could be a bit of a mental break for the right-hander.
“That is a good way to put it,” Arrieta said. “You come to the park, and you may go one or two innings and you can just go out and let it fly. I talk to (Jason) Hammel a lot. He’s starting to become one of those veteran guys who knows the game well. He said he just stopped trying to be so fine with his pitches (when he worked out of the pen late last year).
“Right now I feel at ease. I feel at peace with what is going on. What has happened to me over the past month and a half was mentally draining, and those things would snowball into my next start. It almost feels like you are defeated before any runs are scored.
“It just feels good to be at ease and clear minded and approach this situation with that mindset.”