Arrieta pleased with progress despite results

Kapler: 'All we wanted to see was a healthy, strong pitcher, and we saw that'

March 27th, 2018

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies starter is still working out some kinks. The veteran righty gave up four runs on seven hits over three innings in Philadelphia's 5-5 tie against Pittsburgh in Tuesday's Spring Training finale at Spectrum Field. Arrieta struck out three, balked and committed a throwing error on a pickoff play in his final Grapefruit League appearance.

Arrieta wrote off the results for the exhibition game that it was.

"It's not like you want to go out there and give up a bunch of runs in Spring Training -- but [the runs] don't count," Arrieta said. "It's more about getting your timing, pitching in real game situations. You still want to have success and locate, but for me, it's being able to change speeds, execute quality pitches down in the strike zone and force contact."

The day started off well enough for Arrieta, who struck out Josh Harrison to lead off the game. Consecutive one-out singles by and set the table for Josh Bell, who cleared the bases with rocket of a home run to left-center. After inducing a flyout to Corey Dickerson, Arrieta gave up consecutive doubles to  and before Phillies manager Gabe Kapler used a mound visit to allow Arrieta to catch his breath and get the third out of the inning.

"Last game of the spring, I got into a mindset of being eager to just throw a bunch of fastballs, which is fine, but I was missing spots and gave up a few runs," Arrieta said.

Arrieta fared better in his next two innings, but was forced to work primarily out of the stretch after allowing singles to start things off in each of those frames. He ended his day after 44 pitches -- 32 of those for strikes.

"He demonstrated what a seasoned veteran he was," Kapler said. "Obviously he ran up a pretty high pitch count early on where he was featuring a lot of fastballs and he said, 'Look, I'm going to make an adjustment here. I'm going to go with my breaking ball and offspeed,' and started to have really efficient innings to get back in line with where we need him to be."

Arrieta said he is still trying to build up his arm strength after joining camp late. The 32-year-old, who inked a three-year, $75 million free-agent deal with the Phillies, didn't sign until March 12. The plan is for Arrieta to throw a bullpen session and a simulated game -- either next week in New York during a three-game series with the Mets or back in Clearwater -- before making his debut on April 8.

"The body is bouncing back really well the day after," Arrieta said. "I haven't been sore at all, knock on wood. So that's just part of the preparation to make sure the arm strength is there, which I'm happy with where it is."

Kapler said he wasn't worried about the former National League Cy Young Award winner getting back up to speed.

"We could care less about the results," Kapler said. "All we wanted to see was a healthy, strong pitcher, and we saw that."

Heading into the offseason, one of Philadelphia's biggest needs was an established starter to lead a rotation of young power arms, including Opening Day starter . Once Arrieta is ready, those two will top a rotation that also includes , Vince Velasquez, and -- all of whom are 26 years old or younger. Not including Arrieta's final outing on Tuesday, the starting five combined for a 3.45 ERA (29 earned runs in 75 2/3 innings) while striking out 67 this spring.  

, who will start the season on the DL due to a strained right lat muscle, will likely join that group once he is healthy. A spirited competition for a spot in the back end of the rotation this spring also revealed a depth of pitching in the organization that should hold well over the course of the season.

"We're pretty stacked," Velasquez said of the group.

Arrieta has been more than willing to take on a mentoring role with the younger pitchers, going as far as calling himself a big brother in the clubhouse.

"I want all these guys to know that whatever the case is, if there is something they need, please come to me," Arrieta said. "I've been through it all."