Arrieta on his ‘necessary’ seven weeks in Triple-A

Orioles starter Jake Arrieta has been recalled from Triple-A Norfolk and will be available in the team’s bullpen on Sunday, taking the roster spot vacated by right-hander Matt Lindstrom who was traded for Joe Saunders on Sunday morning. I spoke with Arrieta yesterday, while he was still with Triple-A Norfolk, and the 26-year-old was confident he was headed in the right direction.

“I don’t think there’s anybody more frustrated about the way things have gone then I am,” said Arrieta, who worked hard to be a full-go this spring coming off season-ending right elbow surgery and was demoted after pitching to a 6.18 ERA in 18 starts. “Obviously, it’s me out there. It’s my stats, it my outings that have affected the team. So, I’m pretty much trying to wipe the slate clean.

“Do I want to be here? Not really. But it’s necessary for where I was at when I was with the big league team. I wasn’t doing our team or myself any good being up there, being in the kind of mindset that I was. It doesn’t mean I was going out there every fifth day with any intention other than trying to win our team a game. But I had way too many things going on in my head.”

Since being sent to Triple-A, following July 5’s outing in Anaheim in which he surrendered six earned runs over 3 2/3 innings, Arrieta has worked closely with director of pitching development Rick Peterson and Norfolk pitching coach Mike Griffin. Together, they have ironed out the kinks in his delivery with an added emphasis on keeping the ball down and his shoulders level to helping reestablish Arrieta’s fastball command. That, coupled with changing what Arrieta calls a “clouded thought process” has the right-hander confident he’s back on track, a sentiment he reiterated several times Saturday.

“My thought process and my mentality has been so much different the past couple starts than it has been the whole year,” said Arrieta, who also credits current sports psychologist Don Carman, a former big leaguer he has been working with, for helping him apply some of those concepts correctly.

“I would take the mound every fifth day and be so concerned with throwing strike one and winning 1-1 counts that if I walked a few guys, I would press too hard to limit the damage and get the guys out behind them. Rather than just keeping it simple, and executing one pitch after another, and after another. That’s all I can control. And that’s all my focus needs to be.”

After an impressive spring, Arrieta won the first Opening Day start of his career with seven scoreless innings against the Twins. Projected to a frontline starter for an uncertain Baltimore rotation, Arrieta has shown flashes of brilliance this season –most notably stifling the Yankees for eight innings in New York on May 2, but they have been few and far in between.

Following a seven-game stretch in which he went 0-6 with a 9.43 ERA, Arrieta was briefly demoted to the bullpen, but he never pitched in relief before an injury to Brian Matusz put him back in the rotation. He looked as if he had turned the corner over the next three games, pitching to a 2.70 ERA, before a pair of outings in which Arrieta failed to complete four innings punched his ticket to Norfolk.

“You get so tired of hearing on a daily basis that you’re stuff is too good to be struggling like this,” Arrieta said.  “I was so sick of hearing it. I pretty much had to look myself in the mirror and say, ‘Ok, what do I need to do to fix this? How can I get over this hump?’ I’ve done a lot of soul searching down here and used a lot of resources to get back to where I know I belong.”

“The mistake would be to go down there and think, ‘I just have to have a couple good starts and I’ll be back.’,” said Orioles manager Buck Showalter who has preached accountability, particularly with the young pitchers, since his arrival.  “And Jake didn’t look at it like that. I know he’s a little frustrated by it, but I like what I’ve seen the last couple times out.

There’s some things that he needed to get back to and I think he’s in the process of doing that. Jake’s going to be a good pitcher up here at some point. [I’m] glad we have that type of depth.”

It’s unknown how Arrieta will be used on Sunday and how long his stay will be with the Orioles, who will have to clear a roster spot for Saunders’ arrival, but Arrieta is expected to be with the team as part of September’s callups and he said he will do whatever necessary to help the organization down the stretch.

“It’s been tough and everybody knows that, but I can’t put my head down and pout about it,” said said Arrieta who is 19-23 with a 5.27 ERA in parts of three seasons with the Orioles. “There’s only one way to go from here and that’s up, and I’m starting to move in that direction.”

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