TAMPA, Fla. – One of Jake Arrieta’s goals in the early part of spring training is to pound the lower part of the strike zone with his mid-90s fastball, to tempt hitters to chop balls into the ground and let his defense make plays behind him.
And in his 1 2/3-inning start Wednesday afternoon against the New York Yankees at Steinbrenner Field, the Orioles right-hander was able to do that, keeping every ball hit in play on the ground. Arrieta got ahead of hitters — his fastball running at 94-96 mph — but he found himself at times too wild with his fastball.
The result of his outing wasn’t impressive — two walks and two ground-ball base hits that eventually produced three runs, two scoring on a bases-loaded triple allowed by T.J. McFarland.But Arrieta said he felt good about it.
“Other than the two walks, where I was in some good counts and I was trying to be a little too aggressive with my fastball [and] I pulled a couple out of the zone,” Arrieta said. “That’s something I’ve done in the past that’s really what I’ve worked at overcoming — just being a lot more fluid and smoother in my deliveries.
“I felt like I had some really good downhill. I felt like they were taking some pretty weak swings.”
Arrieta had a 2-2 count against leadoff hitter Brett Gardner but walked him. (He then got a 5-4-3 double play ball off the bat of Jayson Nix.) He also had a 2-2 count on Dan Johnson in the second inning before issuing a one-out walk. Johnson would score on Chris Stewart’s two-out single, the final hitter Arrieta faced.
“The stuff’s good,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Arrieta, who threw 38 pitches, 21 for strikes. “A little command here and there. It’s early. He physically feels good and his stuff is fine. A little of the command is not where it’s gonna be.”
With spring training longer than usual because of the World Baseball Classic, Showalter said he’s far from beginning to evaluate his starting rotation candidates. Arrieta is one of 13 pitchers fighting for the five rotation spots.
“It does [help] in the sense that you can go out there and work on things,” Arrieta said. “I need to throw a higher percentage of changeups, especially to left-handed hitters, and I was only able to throw two today, so in a more extended appearance — 50-plus pitches — that will be easier to accomplish. So it’s tough to have that combination of wanting to get people out, but at the same time trying to work on things you need to improve on for the season.
“I just think from here on out, innings will be extended, pitch count will go up and we’ll get opportunity to make those adjustments and work on the things we need to.”
Arrieta said he was disappointed he couldn’t get out of the second inning before reaching his pitch limit.
“It is a little frustrating, but it’s my first time to go out there and get up [for two innings],” Arrieta said. “I know what I’ve got to work on. My command has drastically improved from the past couple years, so I just need to keep improving on that.”
Flaherty getting flashy
For the second time this spring, Ryan Flaherty made a spectacular play at shortstop in Wednesday's 10-7 win over the Yankees.
To open the second inning, Juan Rivera hit a ball deep into the hole, where Flaherty ranged to his right and backhanded the ball on the edge of the outfield grass. He then lofted a high throw to first while pedaling toward the third-base line to get Rivera in time.
“I saw him get to the ball, and I thought there was a 50-50 chance that he would even throw it,” Arrieta said. “So to make an accurate throw running away from first base toward the third-base foul line like that is really incredible. I don’t know if that play will be appreciated as much as it should. That’s a pretty amazing play he made.”
Around the horn
Henry Urrutia, the Cuban defector who had been displaced in Haiti since signing with the Orioles in July, has finally received his work visa. The outfielder is in Miami, and the team is working to get him to Sarasota so he can take a physical and report to the club's minor league facility at Twin Lakes Park. ... Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. will throw out the first pitch at the Orioles’ March 7 game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Ed Smith Stadium. Ripken will also sign copies of his new children’s book, “Wild Pitch,” from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the lower concourse. ... The Orioles announced that David Rovine will be the club’s vice president overseeing its Sarasota business affairs and community development in the city. Rovine is a Baltimore native and Towson graduate.