Arrieta closing in on No. 5 starter's job in scoreless tie

Arrieta closing in on No. 5 starter's job in scoreless tie
March 21, 2013, 11:15 pm
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SARASOTA, Fla. – Jake Arrieta has taken away nearly all the uncertainty over the final job in the Orioles rotation.

As Ravens coach John Harbaugh might say, he isn’t pretty, he isn’t perfect. But, he looks as if he’s Buck Showalter’s No. 5 starter.

Arrieta hasn’t exactly blown away the competition, but after throwing six scoreless innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday night as the teams played to a 0-0 tie in 10 innings before 6,000 at Ed Smith Stadium, it’s hard to see how anyone else can beat him out.

Over his last three starts, Arrieta has thrown 14 2/3 scoreless innings, and while he still nibbles far too much, he has dynamic power. On Thursday, Arrieta struck out nine Pirates. In the three starts, Arrieta has allowed 11 hits, struck out 16 and walked five.

Arrieta is confident that he’s done enough to make the team.

“I think so, but it's not in my hands. All I can do is go out there and show that I belong on the team, and after that it's their decision," Arrieta said.

Showalter wasn’t ready to anoint Arrieta.

“He’s shown me enough to be part of the competition,” Showalter allowed.

Arrieta threw 88 pitches, and would have been able to go seven innings in a regular season game, Showalter calculated. Eight of his nine strikeouts came from the stretch position.

“If we can get that out of the windup, we've got a pretty solid outing," Showalter said.

“I'd like to see him get a little sharper out of the windup. He's a little different pitcher out of the stretch."

Arrieta thought his performance was better on Thursday than last Saturday against Toronto.

“A lot more efficient. That's one thing I needed to clean up a little bit is be better when I'm ahead of guys and put them away when I'm in favorable counts. Did a better job tonight,” Arrieta said.

“A big thing last year was not being able to minimize damage last year when I got into situations. Things got out of control and I wasn't able to manage them, so that's my mindset when I get the leadoff guy on or the first two guys in the inning-give up one. Get back in the dugout and keep your team in it."

Showalter isn’t going to anoint Arrieta, but he’s clearly moved ahead of Steve Johnson, who pitches on Friday, and Brian Matusz, who can move to the bullpen.

The wild card is T.J. McFarland, the Rule 5 draft pick, who’s made it into the conversation, but it may be too little, too late.

The Orioles did nothing with Pittsburgh starter Jonathan Sanchez, who allowed two hits in five innings. They had just four hits in 10 innings.

“A pitcher-friendly night,” Showalter said.

The best news of the day came after the game when Showalter noted that Nick Markakis had been cleared to resume baseball activities, and he should begin swinging off a tie on Friday. After a few days of that, he should be ready to play.

The Orioles sent Danny Valencia to Norfolk, and said that another  player or two may be cut on Friday.

Showalter liked what he saw out of Valencia.

“He’s got a lot of pop. A lot of potential,” Showalter said.

“Right now, the plans are for him to get at-bats in Triple-A as a third baseman/first baseman/DH. He can even play the outfield some. I think he’s got a chance to be an option for us. I like what he might [do] if he goes down with the right attitude to be a potentially impactful guy for us as the season goes on. It could be quick.”

NOTES: The Orioles play Tampa Bay at Port Charlotte on Friday. Steve Johnson starts for the Orioles. Jair Jurrjens will follow. Jeff Niemann is the Rays’ starter. Brandon Gomes and Kyle Farnsworth.

-Tommy Hunter will throw three or four innings at Twin Lakes Park on Friday.

- The Orioles are now 15-6-3.