Jason Heyward began his career as an Atlanta Brave with a bang at the beginning of the season and Ike Davis was called up when the Mets were struggling in mid-April. More recently, we've seen the debuts of Steven Strasburg, former Yankee farmhand Jose Tabata, fellow Pirate Brad Lincoln, and Mike Stanton (who is not related to the former Yankee reliever) to name a few. Still on the horizon are promising youngsters like the awesomely-named Carlos Santana - a catcher in the Indians' system, outfielders Domonic Brown of the Phillies and Desmond Jennings of the Rays,
Scott Boras' Pittsburgh's Pedro Alvarez and Kyle Drabek - now property of the Blue Jays - who was the centerpiece of the Roy Halladay deal. Even these players experience a higher than expected rate of attrition, there's a good chance that we'll look back at this class of rookies as one of the best in the ten or fifteen years surrounding it.
Tonight, a highly-regarded Baltimore prospect will make his debut, but given the performance that happened just two days ago and forty miles down I-95, this one will seem considerably more subdued.
Jake Arietta was a fifth round pick in the 2007 draft but didn't begin his ascent through the minor leagues until the 2008 season. He debuted at High-A ball and struck out 120 batters in 113 1/3 innings while maintaining an ERA of 2.87. Last season, started with the AA Bowie Baysox, pitched 59 strong innings over 11 starts there and was promoted to AAA. While in Norfolk, Arrieta's strikeout rate dropped and his ERA rose, but was still respectable in his 92 innings there, tallying an ERA of 3.92 and a K/BB ratio comfortably over 2.
The twenty four year old right hander broke camp with the Triple-A squad this year and got off to a great start. Although his strikeout and walk rates aren't as strong as they were in the lower levels of the minors, they are better than they were at the same level last year and Arrieta has an ERA of just 1.85 through 11 starts. He has been more or less unhittable so far, surrendering fewer than six hits per nine innings and allowing only three homers in 73 IP.
In the past two years, the Orioles have seen more than their fair share of pitching prospects make their Major League debuts. Brad Bergesen first appeared in the Big Leagues April 21st of 2009, the less-celebrated-but-still-young David Hernandez joined the club May 28th, last night's pitcher Chris Tillman was called up at the end of last July, Brain Matusz made his debut six days later. Tonight, Arrieta will get his shot.
When we talked to Orioles fan and blogger Daniel Moroz before the season began, he surmised that barring a number of injuries, Arrieta wouldn't see more than a cup of coffee this season. Koji Uehara, who began the rotation, is on the DL and Hernandez, who has been ineffective in his eight starts, has been relegated to the bullpen. Those two moves, along with Arrieta's dominance and the O's futility, created Jake's chance to be called up.
It might not be occurring under the greatest of circumstances and it might not pay dividends immediately, but tonight should be a bit of a silver lining for Orioles fans, if such a thing can be found in one of their worst stretches in one of their worst seasons in franchise history.
Get up Jake, it's late in the mornin',
The rain is pourin' and we got work to do.
Get up Jake, there's no need a-lyin',
You tell me that you're dyin', but I know it's not true.
Now, me and Jake, we work down on the river,
on the ferry "Baltimore".
And when Jake don't rise up in the mornin',People lined up along the shore.
[Song Notes: I've been a fan of this tune for a long time and it was the first thing I thought of when I heard Arrieta was going to be starting tonight. The lyrics don't line up perfectly, but the kid's name is Jake, "Baltimore" and "lined up" are in the song and that's good enough for our purposes. If only there was someone named Dan from Savannah on the Yankees, it would have really sealed the deal.
I had to upload the version from To Kingdom Come because the only "video" on YouTube kind of sucks.]
Brett Gardner is once again out of the lineup; Marcus Thames gets the start in left field tonight. Pray for lots of groundballs and strike outs. Francisco Cervelli gets the finale off, with Chad Moeller getting the start against his former team.
Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada DH
Curtis Granderson CF
Marcus Thames LF
Chad Moeller C
RHP A.J. Burnett
Corey Patterson LF
Miguel Tejada 3B
Nick Markakis RF
Ty Wigginton 1B
Luke Scott LF
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Scott Moore 2B
Cesar Izturis SS
RHP Jake Arrieta