On Sunday, Jake Arrieta started on the mound for the Baltimore Orioles. One would have thought after successful spring training, he would finally figure it out on the mound after several seasons in the majors.
From the looks of things, he still may have not. After his performance on Sunday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arrieta was again optioned to Triple-A Norfolk for seemingly the umpteenth time in the last couple of seasons.
Sitting in the stands on Sunday, I wondered how a guy who looks like your prototypical power pitcher at six-foot-four cannot get it together. Arrieta has been less-than-mediocre in his young major league career. He has 20-24 record, a 5.40 ERA and 0.5 WAR in parts of four seasons with the Orioles according to Baseball Reference.
By now, most Oriole fans know that he was one of the members of the vaulted ‘cavalry’ from several seasons back that was supposed to get the franchise out of a decade-plus losing rut.
The Orioles did finally dig themselves out the basement and ended up in the playoffs in 2012; however, Arrieta was absent from it mostly by his own doing.
On Sunday, he looked like an ace the first few frames; sadly, in final innings of his start, Arrieta became unglued. The problems that have plagued him throughout his young career – walks, giving up hits at inopportune times and not trusting his stuff – played a large part in costing the Orioles a series sweep.
Fans know that Arrieta is super talented and has the stuff in his arsenal to succeed. The question is when does it come together?
Could his problems be mechanical? Mental? A lack of confidence or a coherent game plan?
Manager Buck Showalter and the front office seemingly still believe in him; therefore, he will be given every chance to succeed.
Arrieta is 27 and may be entering a crossroad in his career, but it would not make sense to dump or trade him as of yet.
There’s a pitcher in the organization that has been down the same road that Arrieta is on right now: Chris Tillman.
Tillman was another highly-regarded pitcher that had his shares of up and downs during his major league career. He was another guy who often shuffled between the majors and minors; however, last season, Tillman finally delivered on his promise and had a 9-3 record with a 2.93 ERA in 15 starts.
Now, Tillman – for now – is a mainstay in the Baltimore rotation and part of the franchise’s future.
Can the same be said for Arrieta? Scouts seem to love him, and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick quipped this week that if the Orioles offered him up in trade or released him, "I know 29 teams that would be takers."
Arrieta has the potential to go far in the majors, but developing pitchers is a hard task to accomplish in any organization.
At this point, whether or not that can happen depends on him.