Arihara sharp in return, but errors are costly

September 2nd, 2021

ARLINGTON -- spent months eagerly awaiting his return to big league action. He’d been on the injured list since May 9 and made a couple of pit stops for rehab assignments at Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock. He’d have come back a day earlier if they let him.

On Wednesday afternoon he finally made that return, tossing 3 1/3 innings of one-run ball in the Rangers’ 9-5 loss to the Rockies at Globe Life Field. Arihara opened with three perfect innings and retired the first 10 Colorado hitters he faced.

Arihara said it was mentally tough for him to be away from the game for so long, but he was able to stay calm throughout his outing and start the final month of the season on a good note.

“Before the game, I was kind of nervous,” Arihara said through interpreter Hiro Fujiwara. “I was just really relieved and happy to be back out there on the mound. [My teammates] said they were very happy to have me back, and that is obviously very good. I’m thankful.”

The lone blemish on his outing was a solo homer by Brendan Rodgers, which prompted manager Chris Woodward to pull him. Arihara was on a pitch limit regardless of his performance, having not pitched more than two innings in either of his rehab starts.

Arihara threw 47 pitches, 29 of them strikes, with three strikeouts.

“I think we saw what we kind of expected from him,” Woodward said. “We saw glimpses of that early on [this season]. He had some good outings, and I know the issues he had physically obviously got cleaned up. You can see the life on the pitches, the movements and the way the ball was coming out of his hand. That was what we anticipated.”

The 29-year-old Arihara started just seven games, posting a 6.59 ERA, before landing on the injured list back in May. A contused right middle finger that was expected to result in just a short stint on the shelf ended up requiring surgery for which neither Arihara nor the Rangers were prepared.

Woodward said that before the surgery, Arihara lost the command for his pitches because he could barely feel the ball. On Wednesday he executed his pitches just as well as he did early in the season, which was more than encouraging for both Arihara and the staff.

Arihara felt like his command was good overall and that his breaking ball was much better than anticipated after he struggled with control during his rehab assignments.

“My body feels really good and my stuff was pretty good today,” Arihara said. “I hope to increase my velo a little bit more throughout the season, but it was good. I'm relieved it's over and I was able to finish it, and I think I can head into my next outing positively."

The Rangers hopped out to a 5-0 lead in the second inning but could not add to their lead, allowing Colorado to get back into the game. Texas was holding a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the ninth when closer Joe Barlow blew his first save of the season. Barlow allowed five runs (two earned) in that final frame on just one hit and two walks, and the defense struggled, with four errors allowing multiple runs to score.

“Obviously, it's really frustrating the way that game ended,” Woodward said. “I thought we were flirting with disaster the whole game. I will focus on the positive with Arihara. He had 10 straight batters with no hard contact and really efficient pitching. Unfortunately, the guys that came out after, just nobody really had a good outing. It’s frustrating.”