Fresh off the heels of Stephen Strausburg’s historic debut, another young arm will arrive on the Beltway—this time in Camden Yards, as Jake Arrieta makes his major league debut against A.J. Burnett and the New York Yankees.
Arrieta was drafted in the fifth round by the Orioles in the 2007 Amateur Draft and since that time has become one of the Orioles’ top pitching prospects in the vein of Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz before him.
Although it is far too early to make a final judgment on any of the Orioles’ young pitchers the transition hasn’t been as smooth as the Orioles would have hoped. They have a league-worst 4.87 ERA, have given up more runs than any other team in the league, and have the highest batting average against. The blame cannot be attributed to a select few as nearly everyone has struggled for a significant portion of the year.
Brad Bergensen hasn’t been able to recapture the magic of his outstanding rookie season and a 7-5 record last year has turned into a 3-4 record and 6.75 ERA. Matusz, the incumbent ace, has struggled as well after starting out strong with a 2-0 record. Matusz is now 2-6 with a 5.10 ERA and has difficulty working late into games.
David Hernandez has been moved to the bullpen in favor of Tillman who hasn’t fared much better in three starts. Kevin Millwood, who Baltimore signed to stabilize an inexperienced pitching staff has yet to earn a win, and the only starter with an ERA under 4 is Jeremy Guthrie, who has pitched effectively at times in 2010.
Arrieta has been dominant in Triple-A this year with a 1.85 ERA through 73 innings pitched. Arrieta is a power pitcher who likes to challenge hitters with a fastball that can reach 97 mph. His secondary pitches—a slider, curve, and change-up—are all improving, but his fastball velocity and command are his biggest asset.
When Arrieta first joined the Tides in 2009, he had his worst year in the minors but still maintained a 3.93 ERA and won five games. This year Arrieta has made the proper adjustments and is already only 14 strikeouts short of his total last year with significantly fewer innings. Arrieta’s WHIP has lowered as well, although his walk totals have increased.
The Orioles will throw Arrieta into the proverbial fire against reigning World Series champion New York Yankees. The Orioles will be looking to the 24-year-old pitcher to end a two-game losing streak and to earn just their second win against New York this season.
The Yankees not only boast a lineup filled with power threats, but are consistently one of the league’s most patient teams at the plate. Arrieta will have his work cut out for him, but shouldn’t abandon his aggressive approach if he hopes to make his major league debut a successful one.