Arrieta commanding attention

Keys pitcher improves to 4-0, leads league in strikeouts, ranks 2nd in ERA

Minor league notebook

May 19, 2008|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN REPORTER

Frederick Keys ace right-hander Jake Arrieta took a long, hard look at his glowing statistics this season and said of his chances of being promoted to Baltimore next year: "I think it's going to be hard for them [the Orioles] to keep me in the minor leagues if I keep pitching this well."

Arrieta, 6 feet 4 and 225 pounds, is on a roll these days and had every right to be confident after he had shut down the Salem Avalanche on two hits and no runs over seven innings Thursday night.

He struck out six and walked three in an 8-0 victory for the Keys. Arrieta, 22, raised his Single-A Carolina League-leading strikeout total to 59, while improving to 4-0 with an ERA of 1.74, second best in the league.

Opposing hitters are batting .140 off the resident of Plano, Texas. He was named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Week on May 12 after he went 1-0 in two starts with a 1.50 ERA and struck out 13 in 12 innings the previous week.

From Texas Christian to the Arizona Fall League to Frederick, Arrieta has been virtually unhittable. That's why he was able to command a $1.1 million signing bonus from the Orioles last year after being a fifth-round draft pick as a junior out of TCU.

Arrieta was projected to be a first- or second-round choice after turning down professional baseball twice before his sophomore year at TCU. However, his fastball dropped from the high-to-low 90s at the beginning of his junior season, and he fell to the fifth round.

"I was doing too many shoulder exercises at that time," he said of the sudden loss in velocity on his fastball. "It was kind of fatiguing my shoulder. As soon as I backed off, my velocity went right back up. It only lasted a couple of weeks and I don't think it was too big a deal."

Arrieta led the nation in wins with 14 his sophomore season and made Team USA.

The Orioles sent Arrieta to the Arizona Fall League, where he was used as a reliever against Double-A and Triple-A competition. He was selected to the league's Top Prospects Team after not allowing a run in 16 innings over 14 appearances.

"It's always nice to have success, and when you can do it over a long period of time it gives you more confidence," Arrieta said. "I just try to build off each start and go on to the next week."

Triple-A Norfolk

When Tides left fielder Chris Roberson walked to the plate with one out and the bases loaded Friday night in a game that was tied at 5, he was slumping.

Roberson was 3-for-36 in May, and Norfolk was stuck in a 10-game losing streak before he lofted a high drive over the right-field fence that gave the Tides a 9-5 lead.

The lead stood up for a 9-6 victory. Roberson is hitting .225 with two home runs and 20 RBIs in 37 games.

Double-A Bowie

The Baysox broke the team's nearly 10-year-old record for consecutive wins at home Saturday night, earning their 11th straight victory at Prince George's Stadium with a 7-1 decision over the Connecticut Defenders.

Outfielder Kennard Jones, who grew up in the Bowie area, led the home team with three hits and two RBIs.

The record, which had been established Aug. 6-21, 1998, was tied Friday night in dramatic fashion with a 4-3 victory over the Defenders on a two-out, run-scoring double by Nolan Reimold in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The Baysox extended the record yesterday with a 7-2 win over the Defenders.

Single-A Delmarva

The Shorebirds drew a season-high announced 8,952 to Saturday night's final Sylvan Learning Center Hit the Books Night of the season. The large turnout gave Delmarva an average of 3,236 fans for home games, which is seventh in the 16-team South Atlantic League.william.free@baltsun.com

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