May 5, 2012
Arencibia hitting for pitchersHelping hurlers matters most to catcher
By KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency
ANAHEIM - At the moment of impact in a collision between bat and ball, you know there are going to be casualties.
When the baseball compresses into the fat part of the barrel for that one perfect millisecond, the sensation is unmistakable. The feedback, from bat to hands to forearms to shoulders to brain, is instantaneous and the message is crystal-clear: Home run. No doubt about it.
In his short career, J.P. Arencibia has known that feeling more often than many. He’s hit some game-changing bombs, like the three-run shot Thursday that cut through the heavy, cool Southern California air and gave Brandon Morrow all the runs he would need in what turned into a 5-0 victory.
“There’s no feeling like hitting one and knowing there is no chance that ball is staying in the stadium,” said Arencibia Friday. “It’s a good feeling but mainly because now we’re up 3-0 and it’s a really meaningful home run. It’s satisfying to be able to put your pitcher on top.”
On the season, Arencibia is hitting just .211 with an OBP of .250, while slugging .352, with a pair of homers and 15 RBI. But over his most recent 12 games, he has been one of the team’s better hitters at .333 (13-for-39) with five extra-base hits, including Thursday’s homer. In that stretch, he has an on-base percentage of .357 and is slugging .513 for an .870 OPS.
“The numbers have been there but that’s something I’m not worried about,” he said. “I’ve said it so often before, that my average, my offence, is all water under the bridge. My job is to help the pitchers and do what we did (Thursday). Yeah, I was able to get a good pitch and hit it but it was really special for me to be back there behind the plate for a shutout.”
Arencibia feels as much a part of the pitching staff as any of the dozen hurlers he catches. He’s worked hard the past two years and his skills as a receiver and as a game-caller have improved along the way.
“That’s what excites me,” he said. “I was eating lunch today with my agent, watching the replay of the game and I was more pumped up to be able to watch and tell him the pitch sequences that were coming, how we attack the hitters. That’s the stuff I enjoy.
“At the end of the day, there is nobody more passionate than I am in doing what I have to do to help make my pitching staff be successful.”
Thursday’s game was a watershed moment in Morrow’s development. He needed just 102 pitches to complete the game, a testament to his evolution as a strike-thrower.
“He’s been really good every time out, lately. We’ve made some good plays behind him but he’s getting ahead of everybody,” said Arencibia. “Strike one. Unbelievable. Seemed like he was 0-1, 0-2, 1-2 on every hitter. These are advantage counts so they had their backs against the wall all night.
“When you’ve got a guy throwing 95-96 mph down at the knees with an 89 mph slider, it’s going to be a tough night.”
Arencibia’s enthusiasm for what Morrow had accomplished was the same as if he had done it himself.
“I think he’s realized he doesn’t have to strike everybody out,” said the catcher. “He can get outs quickly by getting ahead. It was crazy. I remember in maybe the fifth inning or sixth inning I looked up (at the scoreboard) and he was still in the 50s in terms of pitch count.
“That’s pretty special, especially when you consider the lineup we’re facing is one of the best, top to bottom, in the American League and in the big leagues.”
Arencibia’s game-turning homer came in the middle of an unexpected flurry of hits in the third inning against Angels starter Dan Haren.
“In a matter of about five or six pitches, we had three runs on the board after a base hit, a bunt single and J.P. gets a fastball up,” said manager John Farrell. “We’ve had our difficulties against Haren in the past but this time we were able to take advantage of a couple of mislocated fastballs. Three runs in this ballpark and with the kind of pitching we were getting, was a good combination.”
Yes, the home run was focal point but not the thing that drives Arencibia.
“For me, it’s more about being back there, blocking those pitches on strike three and framing the pitch on the strike three and just to know that we commanded those hitters the entire night. That’s the stuff that I savour.”