After years of the Baltimore Orioles waiting for Jake Arrieta to finally arrive as a big-league pitcher, he has. Unfortunately it was not for the team that drafted him in the fifth round out of TCU.
Traded to the Cubs in July of last year along with Pedro Strop for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger, the change of scenery has served Arrieta well. In the portions of his up-and-down four years with the Orioles, he was 20-25 with a 5.64 ERA and WHIP of 1.472. For the Cubs he is 10-6 with a 2.93 ERA and WHIP of 1.056 — and those were numbers before he gave up only a home run to Nelson Cruz in seven innings to lead the Cubs to a 4-1 win over his old teammates.
Jake Arrieta will forever stick in my mind as the proverbial poster boy for a player who needed a change in scenery. In Baltimore he was forever the very personification of nerves run amuck on the mound. He looked like he had PPTSD = Pitchers’ Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder … a condition resultant from living under threat of continuous shelling in war, which is essentially what happened to Arrieta whenever he pitched.
When I was a child, my mother sent me to YMCA Summer Day Camp. It was a personal disaster. I was too young, and all the kids were older and bigger, so I was just a punching bag. To return to that place even five decades later would probably be a traumatic experience; and I suspect that is what Camden Yards might feel like for Jake.
But Wrigley and Chicago have certainly settled him quite well. I’m not sure how the Windy City fits him better than Baltimore – having gone to high school in Plano, TX (a great place to live) and college in Ft. Worth.
The only pitcher who rivals Arrieta for looking uncomfortable on the mound is Brian Matusz. Each is constantly adjusting and re-adjusting their caps as if they don’t quite fit correctly. It’s not as bad as Jonny Gomes who nearly twists his head off while adjusting his batting helmet over and over, but I don’t get the reason for the nervous habit.
There was never any doubt if Jake Arrieta had the talent to be a very good pitcher. He had it in abundance, which is what made watching him so frustrating. He was probably the best pure athlete in the O’s clubhouse, and a wonderfully nice person as well.
So, I’m pleased for him, I really am. Not so much for yesterday, but in the big picture it is good to see him performing well. As Buck says when a team gets a player that works well for them in a trade, “Now they’re happy and they’ll want to do business with you again.” So, there’s that.
On Saturday afternoon the Orioles will have to face a situation that has haunted them all year – seeing a really good young pitcher for the first time. His name is Kyle Hendricks, and this will be only the eighth game of his career. Already he is 5-1 with an ERA of 1.48. He got a bit rocked in his first start against the Reds, but in six outings since, he’s 5-1 with a 0.84 ERA and 0.89 WHIP.
Where do teams get guys like this? He was an eighth round selection of the Rangers in 2011, and in July of 2012 was traded to the Cubs in the Ryan Dempster deal.
The Orioles will send their war horse Bud Norris to the mound. He has had a lot of success in Wrigley since making his debut there in 2009 with the Astros. Norris is currently 11-7 with a 3.69 ERA.