For the Baltimore Orioles to stay in contention in the American League East, they probably need to get better pitching performances out of Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz. Each has been inconsistent, as evidenced by their combined 17 losses and ERAs over 5.00. They’ll also need Wei-Yin Chen to keep up his good work. The rookie southpaw has been a pleasant surprise with his 7-3 record and 3.38 ERA.
Rick Adair, the Orioles pitching coach, gave scouting reports on the threesome when the team visited Fenway Park earlier this month.
Adair on Wei-Yin Chen: “His fastball, from a velocity standpoint, is low-90s. Last night it was a little firmer than normal. He’s really dependent on his fastball location. His changeup has gotten a lot better, and both his slider and his curveball have been usable. His best secondary pitch depends on the day, but it’s generally his changeup.
“He gets guys out basically with feel and fastball command. He has a feel for what a hitter can and can’t hit. A lot of it is how they react to his fastball. He will adjust from hitter to hitter based on the reaction he gets off of his fastball. That feel is very innate. He has the ability to pick things up extremely well, and extremely fast. He applies a lot of things and has a great internal pitching clock.
“Wei-Yin likes to have an idea of a hitter’s hot zones and cold zones, but he’s basically going to pitch his game. He’ll stay out of the hot zones as much as he can, but if his strength ends up matching up with a guy’s hot zone, he’ll challenge him.
“When he’s not pitching well, it’s usually because he loses his fastball command. He throws a four-seamer and a two-seamer, and he tends to lose command of the two more so than the four. It will start running off the plate.”
On Brian Matusz: “Brian throws at about the same velocity [as Chen] and has a little more movement to his two-seamer. His secondary package, overall, is a little more refined than Wei-Yin’s right now.
“Brian is a four-pitch guy. Actually, it’s five with his fastball being both a two-seam and a four-seam. He also has a changeup, a curveball, and a slider. There’s a distinct difference between Brian’s curveball and his slider. If those two pitches don’t start mixing together, I’m great with a guy throwing both. It’s great to have both weapons, but not too many guys can do it.
“When it comes to reports, he’s a lot like Wei-Yin. He knows the areas that he can go to on a hitter, and the areas that he probably needs to stay away from in certain counts. But he’s basically going to pitch with what his eyes are telling him.
“[In bullpen sessions] we’re usually working on his fastball command. He’s also working a lot on his changeup, trying to get a little more action on it. He works on his posture and his delivery out of the stretch. He’s done a tremendous job of controlling the running game.”
On Jake Arietta: ‘He’s a four-pitch guy. His fastball is explosive. He’s got a curveball-slider combination. His changeup is usable a lot of the time. His biggest issue is that he’ll lose his fastball command.
“Jake has the ability to get ground balls, and strike people out. I think he is probably more of a strikeout pitcher than he is either ground-ball or fly-ball. He definitely has the ability to strike guys out.
“As a pitcher, you’re hoping to get action down, and get a ground ball, and at times it’s a swing-and-miss pitch. It’s really kind of like a changeup. Every time you throw a sinker, and it’s down, you want contact made.
“There are times when he needs to mix in his secondary stuff a little more earlier in the game than he does. He’s still learning when he should do those things.”
On helping pitchers make in-game adjustments: “Everybody has their own little quirky-type things. With Wei-Yin we talk a lot. With Arrieta we’ve begun talking a little more. Brian, on occasion, will come over to talk. You can always tell when guys are kind of wanting help, or when they need something.
“Mostly, I try to stay out of the way during the game. I generally let them come to me, unless I see something that needs to be addressed. There are guys who like conversation, and there are guys who don’t want anything said at all. And every pitcher is unique. I don’t think I’ve ever had two that are exactly alike.”