Right-hander Jake Arrieta came into spring camp as one of a host of candidates for an open spot in the Orioles’ starting rotation.
There was no question is his mind, though, on who would win the competition: Him.
“No, absolutely not. Whether that's cockiness or overconfidence, whatever you want to call it. that's just the way that I personally had to approach the situation, with that mindset," he said. "Knowing that I had to go out and actually show it and not just know it in my mind. I think the combination of having that mindset and knowing I had to kind of prove myself helped me get to the point where I am now.”
Arrieta had the best camp of an Orioles pitcher, allowing just three earned runs in 17 1/3 innings (1.56 ERA), striking out 16 and walking eight batters. He’s had success in spurts before, but the 27-year-old said he is better equipped to maintain consistency this year.
“I’m much more focused and much better prepared this time around, Not that I wasn’t prepared or [didn’t have] focus going into this last season,” said Arrieta, who was 3-9 with a 6.20 ERA in 24 games (18 starts) for the Orioles in 2012. “But I think my preparation and focus is a little bit more fine-tuned. And now I am in this position and am ready to take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and keep my job all year. I think that’s what everybody wants and what everybody expects from me. That’s what I plan to do.”
The rotation competition really revolved around the fifth starter’s spot, but projected fourth starter Chris Tillman was placed on the 15-day DL, retroactive to March 22, and will not be eligible to come off until April 6 – the fifth game of the season.
So that means Arrieta will start the fourth game on April 5, which just so happens to be the home opener at Camden Yards against the Minnesota Twins. It will be the third consecutive year that Arrieta has started the home opener. Last year, he was on the mound for the season opener and pitched seven scoreless innings versus the Twins.
“It’s a big honor to pitch that first game in front of the hometown fans,” Arrieta said. “I know all of Baltimore is ecstatic and very excited for that moment. It’s something that a lot of emotions will continue to come out as that moment comes near.”