Arihara reaches pitch limits in spring debut

March 3rd, 2021

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In his Major League Spring Training debut, faced off against a star-studded Chicago White Sox lineup for two innings of work Tuesday.

It didn't go exactly as he would've liked for a debut, having given up five hits and three earned runs with two strikeouts in the 5-5, six-inning game.

After a groundout by leadoff hitter Tim Anderson, Arihara allowed baserunners via hit-by-pitch, single and a home run to Andrew Vaughn to put the Rangers behind, 3-0. Manager Chris Woodward then rolled over the inning. Due to COVID-19 and the subsequent smaller Spring Training rosters, managers on the defensive side can end an inning if a pitcher has thrown more than 20 pitches as a way to prevent injuries.

Woodward rolled over the second inning as well, after Arihara loaded the bases with two outs and 2020 American League MVP José Abreu coming to the plate. Woodward said 40 pitches was around the Rangers' limit for Arihara, and he was at 41 when they rolled it over.

“It was obviously a first time for me going out of the game in the middle of an inning,” Arihara said through an interpreter. “For me personally, it's not acceptable that I wasn't able to finish the innings. In the future, I have to make sure it doesn't happen again and that I can finish the inning.”

Woodward said he personally doesn't like rolling over the innings but wants to ensure he doesn't put any pitchers in harm's way by pushing past their limits, especially a guy like Arihara who hasn't pitched in the Majors.

Arihara said he was still getting used to the slippery feel of the MLB ball compared to the Japanese one and that he needs to be more precise with the location of his fastball.

Catcher -- an 11-year MLB veteran -- said there were a lot of close calls behind the plate. He said Arihara established the fastball well and the changeup was much better than it was in his bullpen sessions.

Butera said catching for Arihara, with seven pitches in his arsenal, is a daunting task and adds a bit more preparation on his end, including watching old film to learn the pitcher's patterns. It's more challenging, but it allows communication between the pitcher, catcher and coaching staff.

“He's not gonna have all of those [pitches] every single day,” Butera said. “The fun days are when he does have it and I can use anything at any time. But for me, it's more recognizing what he does have that day and then using it in the game.

“Our job is to get him through a game, get him through all of his outings, good, bad or indifferent. I know it's his first time. I'm sure he was a little bit nervous as anybody would be going through a new country.”

Both Woodward and Butera said they felt like Arihara pitched better than his stat line showed. Woodward said he threw tons of quality pitches but the White Sox were just able to hit them.

“I think the most pressing thing was they got some base hits off of him, but he just kept executing," Woodward said. "He fell behind, and he just said he wasn't as sharp as you'd like to be. I think that some of those pitches maybe were decent pitches that he didn't get calls on and maybe he's used to getting.”

Butera said Arihara delivered the high fastball better than the pitcher thought he did. Though the White Sox collected five hits against the right-hander, Butera said Arihara's execution was solid through those at-bats.

“Unfortunately, it's one of those that if it's a centimeter lower, it's a ground ball, and if it's a centimeter higher, it's a fly ball,” Butera said. “It just got hit to the right spot, and credit to Abreu.”

Despite the struggles, Arihara said it was an exciting experience to pitch in a big league ballpark, even if it was just Spring Training. He said he was pumped to be on the mound and felt calm for the majority of his outing.

“It's a new season, a new place for me,” Arihara said. “So it felt like it was the start of something great. But I still wasn't able to execute the way I wanted to. So next time I hope that I'll be able to have even more fun.”