Arrowood begins long path to Major Leagues
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Arrowood, who just two seasons ago went 11-0 for Appalachian State (including a win over Oklahoma in the Charlottesville Regional) in his senior season, is one step above the bottom of the Colorado Rockies' farm system.
It's not where he wants to stay.
Arrowood pitches for the Asheville Tourists, the low-A classification team for the Rockies. He started the 2013 season in the Tourists' bullpen, but has worked his way into making occasional start.
Arrowood, who has a 5-0 record with an ERA of 3.00, has started four games this season. He is 4-0 as a relief pitcher with 49 strikeouts and 13 walks. Arrowood is also 1-0 as a starter with 24 strikeouts and six walks.
"Right now I'm a long relief guy and a spot starter whenever they need it," Arrowood said. "In doubleheaders, I'll come in and start it up. I got my pitch county up, luckily. I started out at about 60 when I came out of spring training and I've gotten it up to 85, so I'm able to go a little longer with spot starts."
Arrowood has not pitched since July 10, against Delmarva, when he picked up a win over the Shorebirds in relief. He gave up five hits and struck out eight in four innings.
Arrowood's ERA is 2.53 in his last 10 games.
"One thing is he's a big competitor," Asheville manager Freddie Ocasio said. "He's a strike thrower. He goes after hitters and he's not afraid of contact. He uses all of his pitches and throws them for strikes."
It's no secret that life in the minor leagues is different than in the big leagues. Bus rides are the norm in the minors, and it's no different in Asheville. Arrowood said most of the bus rides for the Tourists are in the three-to-five hour range since many of the teams are in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
But the South Atlantic League also extends into Maryland and New Jersey. Arrowood said the long rides can be a bit tough physically, but he likes visiting places he hasn't seen before.
"It's really nice to get to see some of these places," Arrowood said. "Like Charleston, S.C. I know I've been there, but seeing it from a professional standpoint of the facility is different. And playing in Maryland: we got to drive through the underwater bridge through Maryland and that was pretty neat to see. I love to travel and being able to do that and play baseball is fun."
Arrowood said one of the biggest differences from college to professional baseball for him, outside of the 10-hour bus rides to New Jersey, is facing batters with wood bats instead of metal bats. He's relied more on his fastball to get batters to hit ground balls instead of trying to strike out so many college batters who used metal bats.
"The wood bats are a huge difference," Arrowood said. "Pitching-wise, you throw a lot more fastballs for sure. At the college level, you throw a lot more curves and sliders to get out of innings. Here, you're working a lot more fastball counts."
To take the next step, which is high-A baseball in Modesto, Ocasio said all Arrowood has to do is keep improving. Then it's on to double-A Tulsa, then triple-A Colorado Springs before reaching the Rockies.
Arrowood started his professional career in 2012 after being picked in the 28th round of the Major League draft. He was sent to Tri-Cities, located in Pasco, Wash., in the Rookie Northwest League. Arrowood went 4-3 that season with an ERA of 2.6. He struck out 55 batters and walked 14 in 51 2/3 innings.
"With Arrowood, he just has to continue to develop," Ocasio said. "He's a hard worker and a good student of the game. He has to continue to do what he's doing."
Arrowood said the thoughts of pitching in Colorado are on his mind, but his goal is to move up one level at a time.
"It's a dream thinking you can get there, but right now, I want to move up one level at a time and do what I can do to do that," Arrowood said.