BALTIMORE -- Orioles starter Jake Arrieta was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk prior to Monday's game, as the 27-year-old right-hander is still searching for consistency and taxing the team's bullpen enough to warrant a move to add reliever Alex Burnett in his place.
"Jake's frustrated for the right reasons," manager Buck Showalter said of Arrieta, who retired the first six batters Sunday, but surrendered five earned runs over four-plus innings. "Not individually. He knows there was a game there potentially to be won, and he was the guy to do it, and put us in harm's way with some moves we had to make today. But he wasn't the only one. We could have done some things differently, better, to keep this from happening."
Arrieta has made four starts for the Orioles this year, giving up 14 earned runs in 19 innings for a 6.63 ERA and has struggled with inconsistency. He looks unhittable for a few innings, and then things will fall apart, a maddening display given the right-hander's considerable talent and work ethic.
"The team needs me. They need me to be better," said Arrieta, who won the final rotation spot this spring. "That's the bottom line, really. I wasn't good enough right now."
"It's pretty obvious [what the problem is]. I talked to Buck about a few things. We talked about things as far as high-anxiety situations and he pretty much asked me, 'Why do you have high anxiety in any situation with the stuff that you have?' Basically, I told him that I just want to be what my team needs me to be. And sometimes I create the anxiety for myself. So, I just need to limit that and know that I don't have to create those types of situations for myself."
Arrieta was the team's Opening Day starter in 2012, but after starting well, he was demoted for two months to Triple-A, and finished 3-9 with a 6.20 ERA in 21 big league games. He showed up at Spring Training this year ready to put that behind him and said Monday he still feels like he's moving in the right direction.
"It's just allowing innings to get out of hand with free passes," he said. "If I allow them to put the ball in play, things work out in my favor more times than not. That's what I have to emphasize when I go down there. Get back to where I need to be to help this team. That's the bottom line, really. Me being in position to have my dominant stuff from start to finish. There's really not a reason I can't do that. I just need to be more aware of what I need to do well and just go out and do it."
"I've got some thoughts and things I shared with Jake, on a personal note," Showalter said of how to help Arrieta learn to better control his emotions. "We've got a couple things in place that we think can help that and help Jake. With a guy with Jake, stuff-wise, there is no wrong pitch. You put a finger down, there's not one that's a whole lot better than the other. It's like a lot of times I wish I could let Jake hit off of Jake and have a little different look at it."
Arrieta, who talked with Showalter and catcher Matt Wieters on Monday, will continue to stay on schedule in Norfolk, and right now, there are no plans to move him to the bullpen, which Showalter thinks is a last resort.
"At the very worst, Jake can do that. I really feel that," he said. "When I first got here, a lot of people thought that's what might happen, but I don't think we're there yet."
Burnett, 25, was claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays on April 12 and has gone 1-0 in three scoreless appearances for Norfolk. He went 4-4 with a 3.52 ERA in 71 2/3 innings over 67 appearances last year with the Twins and adds fresh arm to an overworked Orioles bullpen. Burnett has had three days off since his last appearance.
"He can give us some length," Showalter said. "In the American League East, length is two innings. He's capable of pitching that much. Whether Toronto lets him pitch that much, we'll see. Pretty even splits down there, so whether that correlates to the big leagues, we'll see."
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.