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Arrojo's debut shows pitcher near top form

His only concern is adjusting to a new delivery designed to prevent batters from picking up on the pitch.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 9, 1999


Arrojo
BRADENTON -- It was 10 o'clock in the morning in near-empty McKechnie Field, but it just as well could have been Camden Yards on April 5 the way Rolando Arrojo was throwing.

The Rays ace made an impressive spring training debut, allowing one opposite-field hit and striking out four in two quick innings in a B game against Pittsburgh.

"He had everything going for him today," manager Larry Rothschild said. "He almost looked like he was ready today for the start of the season, other than building up the innings. He's right in position to be ready for the season."

Arrojo, the Cuban defector who won a team-high 14 games last season, generally was pleased with his 28-pitch performance. "It felt good," he said through a team interpreter.


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His only concern was smoothing the mechanics of his delivery. To avoid the possibility of tipping off his pitches, Arrojo is bringing his hands chest high during his windup rather than over his head. He showed Monday that he still needs to get comfortable with the change. "I've had to adjust because I'm not raising my hands all the way up anymore and that's affecting my balance," Arrojo said.

Rothschild said repetition will help. "It's got to become a habit for him where he doesn't have to think about it, but he's pitched the other way for a long time," Rothschild said.

"Basically all you're doing is simplifying to the way you throw from the stretch, and once he gets that, I think he'll get more and more comfortable. Just once in a while you see him make a pitch where you know he's thinking about it. It's already become a lot easier for him."

Because they have a lot of other pitchers in camp and because they want to keep Arrojo strong all season, the Rays have kept their All-Star on a slow pace. He came out Monday showing a crisp fastball, a nasty slider and an effective changeup.

"He looked great," catcher Mike DiFelice said. "He looked like he was really focused on what he was doing out there."

Arrojo retired the side in order in the first, setting down major-leaguers Doug Strange, Mike Benjamin and Brant Brown. After giving up a double to non-roster catcher Steve Bieser to open the second, Arrojo struck out the next two batters, then allowed an unearned run when minor-league shortstop Chris Martin dropped a popup. Rafael Bournigal grounded out to end the inning.

Rothschild said he hasn't decided whether to give the Opening Day assignment to Arrojo or Wilson Alvarez. Arrojo said he would be honored if he gets it.

"Every pitcher wishes to be, and I hope Larry leans toward me," he said.

 

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