After throwing seven shutout innings Friday in the Orioles' 4-2, Opening Day win over the Minnesota Twins, right-hander Jake Arrieta wasn't proclaiming himself as the club's ace going forward.
"I don't know if I would necessarily say I am the No. 1 guy at this point in time," said the 26-year-old right-hander. "We were all aware it could have been a number of guys selected as the Opening Day starter."
His goal, he said, was to show his teammates that he could be trusted with the lofty assignment.
"I just wanted to set the tone and be a guy that some of other guys can look at it and say, 'OK, we know that when he takes the mound he is going to get us into the seventh and eighth innings and put us into a position to win the game,'" Arrieta said. "And I think that's what an Opening Day guy, a No. 1 starter, has to do. I think I've got a ways to go to really establish myself as that guy, but I am willing to do that."
No doubt Arrieta set the tone for Friday's victory, limiting the Twins to two hits and two walks while striking out four. His fastball was consistently in the mid-90s and both his curveball and slider looked exceptionally crisp.
"Unfortunately, their young starting pitcher kind of dominated us," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He had a lot of good pitches. Curveball was nasty. Pretty tough to see the ball out there on both sides."
Arrieta's outing was particularly impressive considering he had surgery in August to remove a bone chip from his throwing elbow. There was a question as to whether he would be ready for spring training, but he was determined to make the club's 25-man roster.
"I wanted to be ready for this day," he said. "And being able to be on the mound today at 100 percent makes it all worth it."
Friday's start was reminiscent of Arrieta's first outing last year, when he limited the Detroit Tigers to one run in six innings in the Orioles' home opener.
"He was really good. He pitched maybe a little better than he did last year in the same venue," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "I thought he kept his emotions under control, which is always a challenge with everybody."
Johnson closes, as expected
The Orioles ended up in a save situation Friday afternoon, and Jim Johnson got the call. He allowed a hit and a walk but got out of the jam to pick up his first save and 22nd of his career
Showalter didn't announce that Johnson, who saved his final nine opportunities last season, was the official closer until Friday, but he told the right-hander a few days ago — shortly after Johnson's son was born.
"He texted me something about the baby and something else, and I said, 'Congratulations. And by the way, you're closing.'" Showalter said. "And he said, 'Yeah, I know.'"
Johnson was hindered in the spring by back issues, but Showalter said he thought Johnson had returned to form.
"It won't be an easy job. He'll have some times where he won't be aesthetically pleasing or whatever you want to call it," Showalter said. "But Jimmy showed us last year that he's capable of doing it."
Kevin Gregg, who began last year as the club's closer, will fill a variety of roles in the bullpen.
"Certainly pitching late in the ball games is one of them," Showalter said. "We've got a lot of options there."
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