Early bullpen sessions at Orioles camp this week indicate Jake Arrieta's elbow is completely healed after undergoing a surgery to remove bone spurs last August.
The 25-year-old told me he had been aware of the bone spurs since his freshman year in college, and had pitched with pain for years. As of this week, he's pitching pain free.
"I can't remember a time in my career where I felt this good on a daily basis," Arrieta said. "It's really the first time that I haven't been in and out of the training room before spring training days and after spring training days trying to calm down inflammation."
So with a new elbow the question is: Can Arrieta conquer some of the command issues that lead to a 4.88 ERA in 40 big league starts over the past two years? The O's fifth-round draft pick has some of the best stuff on the roster and confidence is never an issue, but self-admittedly consistency has been a problem.
"I think it boils down to just being able to command each one of my pitches on a more consistent basis," Arrieta said. "I'm not putting all the blame on the elbow, but there would be times where I'd completely lose feel of being able to spin a breaking ball, or being able to put a fastball down and away on a right handed hitter. I really feel I was hindered by that."
Arrieta is still easing into the spring. He'll get loose on his breaking pitches as the days go on, but without the bone spurs, Arrieta says he's ready to use the curveball earlier in the count to get ahead.
"With the added mobility that I've gained, I'm really able to throw that pitch on a more consistent basis for strikes," Arrieta said.
The Orioles rotation is wide open. Arrieta is one of 14 possible starters in camp battling it out. He's well aware of the spectrum of outcomes. He could be selected as opening day starter or end up in Triple-A Norfolk depending on his performance this spring.
"It's a unique situation because we're all fighting for spots and there's a lot of stuff that's still up in the air," Arrieta said. "Guys are aware of the situation at hand, but at the same time we're just all going about our business just trying to make the club. I think that's the mindset we all should have that nothing is guaranteed."
With Jeremy Guthrie traded to Colorado, Arrieta said it's time for the "young arms" to pitch like veterans.
"Although some of us have only been in the big leagues for a short period of time, we all have significant amount of experience at the big league level," Arrieta said. "I feel confident that if guys develop that mentality and it's just sort of common place in our clubhouse, that it's really going to translate on the field."
Arrieta is anxious to see where his surgically repair elbow will take him.
"If I'm able to go out there from start to finish feeling fresh and feeling pain free in the elbow, if that's the way it's going to be when I go out there, I'm really looking forward to seeing how it ends," Arrieta said.
He's not the only one.