There’s a reason that I write about baseball (specifically the Baltimore Orioles) as opposed to coaching it at the big league level. I came away from yesterday’s 3-1 win over Toronto in Dunedin, FL thinking that starter Jake Arrieta was pretty sharp. Arrieta’s line: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 2 K. Obviously the three walks are a bit concerning, but my overall opinion was that it was a strong outing for Arrieta. Manager Buck Showalter didn’t seem to disagree with that sentiment, however he did mention something that can’t be deciphered by the stat line. He felt that Arrieta was going too deep into counts, as could be evidenced by those three walks. Showalter also made sure to say that it shows how good Arrieta was yesterday in that he got away with it, however that’s probably something the Orioles would like to see remedied.
A parallel can be made here to Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals. Overall Gonzalez is a better pitcher, and I think that Jake Arrieta would be the first to surrender that fact. However one criticism that Washington’s management made of Gonzalez last year was that he pitches to strikeout as opposed to pitching to contact. One might wonder that all things being equal, what’s the difference? The guy’s still recording outs, right? That’s a fair point, however guys who pitch to strikeout tend to rack up a lot more pitches a lot quicker than guys who pitch to contact. Showalter said after the game yesterday (via Steve Melewski of masnsports.com) that Arrieta had in the neighborhood of eight first pitch strikes. So often in pitching to strikeout you’re going to end up throwing balls, which not only puts you behind in the count but also raises your pitch total.
Again, Showalter was quick to say that Arrieta was able to get out of jams yesterday as well. And if you only allow three base hits in nearly five innings of work, you’re definitely doing something right. However Showalter seems to be indicating that they’re seeking starters who can go deeper into games this year. A five or six inning effort might not really do the trick based on the needs of the 2013 Orioles. The O’s got an RBI-sac fly off the bat of Buck Britton in the eighth inning yesterday to close out the scoring in the 3-1 win over Toronto. Another guy that stood out was Troy Patton, who pitched the eighth and part of the ninth; Patton retired all seven hitters he faced, striking out three.
The Orioles will split their squad today, with the “B-team” heading to Clearwater to face the Philadelphia Phillies. Pitching coach Rick Adair will make that trip so as to keep an eye on starter Jason Hammel. Most of the regulars will stay back in Sarasota to play the Minnesota Twins, in a game that will be televised live on MASN at 1 PM (you can also tune into WBAL-AM 1090 for the play-by-play). Steve Johnson will make the start in Sarasota this afternoon, which indicates that Showalter is definitely considering him as a rotation pitcher. My personal opinion is that Johnson would be a dark horse candidate, but the fact is that you never know. (It’s worth mentioning that until the day before the AL Wild Card game last year Johnson was a candidate to start that game, so the Orioles do in fact like him a lot.) Adam Jones will at some point in the very near future return to the Orioles after playing for Team USA in the WBC. I wouldn’t expect him to be in the lineup today, as Showalter indicated that he’d probably give him a couple of days off. As was stated in this column a few days ago, the Orioles will wear special green caps in this afternoon’s games in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.