SARASOTA, Fla. -- Jake Arrieta made a strong statement for the fifth rotation spot on Thursday night, tossing six scoreless innings and striking out nine in a Grapefruit League start against the Pirates.
"[It was] a lot more efficient, " said Arrieta, who had eight strikeouts working from the stretch and was able to work deep in the game. "I think it was one thing I needed to clean up a little bit, was to be better at getting ahead of guys and putting them away when I'm in favorable counts. So, I did a better job of that today."
Last year's Opening Day starter, Arrieta cruised through four innings and pitched out of the only jam of the night in the fifth. After issuing a leadoff walk and an infield single, Arrieta retired the next three batters, fanning Pedro Alvarez for his eighth strikeout. The 27-year-old right-hander extended his scoreless innings streak to 14 2/3 in the process, allowing six hits while walking two.
"A big thing for me last year was not being able to minimize damage," said Arrieta who went 3-9 with a 6.20 ERA in 18 games last season and has made a conscious effort this spring toward in-game adjustments. "When I got in situations things started to get out of control and I just wasn't able to manage it."
This spring, he has been able to eliminate the big inning. Arrieta, who also pitched in an exhibition game against Spain, has appeared in five spring games (four starts) and has allowed three earned runs on 13 hits and eight walks with 16 strikeouts over 17 1/3 innings.
Thursday's outing conceivably gives Arrieta the edge on the rotation spot, although manager Buck Showalter wasn't willing to tip his hand.
"He's shown me enough to be in the competition," Showalter said of Arrieta, who is considered to be in the mix along with Brian Matusz, Steve Johnson and Zach Britton. "To continue to be in the competition."
"All I can do is go out there and show that I belong on the team," Arrieta said, "And after that, it's their decision."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.