O's elect to option Gonzalez; Arrieta to 'pen
Move makes room for Hunter to join rotation to face Phillies
BALTIMORE -- As expected, the Orioles recalled right-hander Tommy Hunter from Triple-A Norfolk to start Saturday's game, while optioning right-handed reliever Miguel Gonzalez to Norfolk and moving struggling starter Jake Arrieta to the bullpen.
"We had a lot of discussion about the options and went up to five minutes before we had to get moving," said manager Buck Showalter, adding that the team strongly considered starting Arrieta in the Minors, but will instead use Gonzalez in that role to give him a chance to stretch out his arm. "We're in a mode here where you're trying to give us the best chance to win, and Jake as a starter isn't it right now. But we hope it will be again."
Showalter said pitching coach Rick Adair might choose to make a few mechanical adjustments, but more likely Arrieta will use the opportunity in the bullpen to simply take what he called a "mental break" and pitch without overthinking every at-bat and dwelling on every mistake.
"Right now, I just feel at ease," Arrieta said. "I feel at peace with everything that's gone on. What happened to me in the past month, month and a half, was mentally draining. Those type of things snowball into my next start and going out there and trying to pitch with that type of mindset, it almost feels like you're already defeated before any runs are even scored, so it feels good to kind of be at ease and clear-minded and just approach this situation with that mindset."
The 26-year-old right-hander, who was the Orioles' Opening Day starter, is 0-6 with a 9.34 ERA over his last seven starts. By his own admission, Arrieta is in the worst stretch of his career, and he allowed career highs of nine runs on 11 hits as the Phillies opened the three-game Interleague series with a 9-6 victory on Friday at Camden Yards.
Arrieta said he had considered the possibility of being sent down and was "not worried about it," but Showalter felt facing Triple-A competition wouldn't make Arrieta a better pitcher at the Major League level.
Arrieta's struggles are unusual, given that he is striking out more batters, walking fewer and giving up fewer home runs as opposed to last year, but has posted an ERA more than a full run higher.
Working out of the bullpen could be the change that leads Arrieta to producing a better bottom line.
"I'm very capable of pitching at a high level out of the 'pen, and I look forward to this opportunity," said Arrieta, recalling his most recent experience pitching out of the bullpen in the fall league after he was drafted in 2007, when he threw 18 scoreless innings. "I think I'm going to be a starter in the long run but right now, at this point in the season and this point in my career, the move to the bullpen is really something that's going to help me get back on track."
Hunter, 25, is 2-3 with a 5.59 ERA in 10 starts for the Orioles this season. A part of the Opening Day rotation, he started well but has struggled to keep the ball down in the zone, allowing 13 homers in 58 Major League innings.
Gonzalez last pitched Thursday, tossing four innings after lefty starter Brian Matusz went two innings. He made his Major league debut with the Orioles on May 29 at Toronto and appeared in two games, allowing two earned runs over 7 1/3 innings pitched.
Showalter said Gonzalez will likely go five innings in his first start at Norfolk, which will match his longest outing of the season. On May 24, Gonzalez threw 70 pitches in five hitless innings for Norfolk.
"Miguel has some options, he stays in the fold," Showalter said. "He presented himself well."
Greg Luca is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.