Jake Arrieta is in no rush this season. At least, when he's on the mound.
Arrieta (1-0) extended his scoreless streak to a dozen innings Wednesday afternoon, striking out five over seven frames in Triple-A Norfolk's 9-0 win over Charlotte.
The 24-year-old Orioles right-hander said he's working hard on setting a consistent pace on the mound, a strategy that's helped him keep his pitches down and opposing batters off-balance through two starts.
"I'm trying to speed my pace up a little bit, which is a pretty easy fix, but at the same time I'm not trying to be overly aggressive with the pace," said Arrieta, Baltimore's fifth-round pick in the 2007 Draft out of Texas Christian University.
"I need to find a happy medium, keep guys off-balance but not rush out there and start elevating pitches."
Arrieta threw 79 pitches on Wednesday, 56 for strikes, and allowed only five baserunners in his second start as the Tides snapped a three-game losing streak.
The right-hander has allowed just six hits over 12 scoreless innings over two starts this season -- he held Durham to three hits in his 2010 debut on April 9.
"The adjustments I made in the offseason and stuff I worked on in Spring Training have paid dividends so far," he said. "So I just need to continue to implement those things I've been working on and carry it into every start."
Arrieta split the 2009 season between Double-A Bowie -- where he was a two-time Eastern League Pitcher of the Week -- and Triple-A Norfolk, finishing a combined 11-11 with a 3.40 ERA in 28 starts. With Baltimore's bullpen struggling early on this season, Arrieta could pitch his way up and provide support this summer.
"Whatever they want me -- as a starter or as reliever -- I'd be happy to do whatever they want me to do," Arrieta said of joining the Orioles this season. "But I'm just thinking about what I need to do to make the jump. I don't know when it's gonna happen, so I've got to focus on the things I can control."
The Orioles have brought up several of their prized young arms, including 2006 second-round pick Chris Tillman, '04 fourth-rounder Brad Bergesen and '08 first-rounder Brian Matusz, who started Tuesday against Tampa Bay. Tillman was reassigned to Triple-A to begin the year, but both he and Arrieta could emerge this season in Baltimore.
"I've just got to do my best and put that in the back of my mind," he said. "I haven't thought about [getting called up] much because it's so early in the year."
Arrieta won a bronze medal for the United States in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics after being named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year. He also appeared for Team USA in the 2008 All-Star Futures Game at Yankee Stadium, helping him earn a spot on the 2009 MLB.com Top 50 Prospects list (No. 39).
The Farmington, Mo., native features a high-90s fastball along with a slider and curve, a combo that helped him lead the Carolina League in ERA two seasons ago.
He said his fastball was sitting around 94-95 mph on Wednesday, a zone he was pleased with.
"I'm working on that, commanding the fastball and keeping it down," he said. "Forcing early contact is something I've always been big on and had some success with. Making the guy swing and get themselves out, allowing them to put the ball in play."
Arrieta's only bump came in the fourth inning when he walked two batters, but a double-play helped him escape.
"I kind of tried to make a few pitches I didn't need to make, and, rather than going right at Jordan Danks, I ended up walking him. [Josh] Kroger I fell behind -- he got out to to a 3-1 count, but I knew I had first base open. He's one of the better hitters, and I knew I'd have have a double-play setup, and that's exactly what happened," Arrieta said. "I made a quality pitch, and that's something I've worked on also, not letting those walks affect me."
Arrieta had some runs to work with after Robert Andino, Scott Moore and Jeff Salazar delivered RBI singles in the second. Rhyne Hughes smacked a three-run homer the seventh.
The Orioles have previously said Arrieta's progression would come with his ability to establish consistent secondary pitches. His maturity over the last year has only helped quicken his path to the Majors.
"My secondary stuff has gotten better, I'm throwing with more aggression and making hitters freeze or put bad swings on it," he said. "I need to continue to get better with it.
"I think I did pretty well last year, but what hurt was getting behind guys with the fastball," he said. "Trying to be too perfect with pitches rather than throwing a good pitch at the knees. I think being more consistent with the fastball has allowed me to open a few more doors with my breaking pitches."