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Spencer Arrighetti prioritizes strength, sixth pitch ahead of spring training

Houston Astros, Spencer Arrighetti
Spencer Arrighetti | Credit: Sugar Land Space Cowboys

Last season, Spencer Arrighetti got tired in a part of the year where he wanted to get stronger. He pitched a career high in innings en route to closing out his second full minor-league season, but even with his overarching success catching the eyes of evaluators, he still knew he had more to offer.

Arrighetti, the Houston Astros’ top pitching prospect, attacked the weight room this offseason, turning his focus to what he’s struggled with the last two winters: keeping weight. He narrowed down his diet to find what worked for himself and planned out a routine to build off his 6-foot-2, 186-pound frame that he carried last season.

“Obviously when it’s a full season with the big league club, you’re pushing into the playoffs at that point,” Arrighetti said. “And I felt it was crucial for me to get stronger this offseason, so that as that playoff push starts to happen, I’m in the best place possible.”

When Arrighetti got back on the mound in the last few weeks, he ironed out pieces of his delivery to increase consistency and higher in-zone rates for all of his pitches.

One of those pitches hasn’t seen game action yet, though. Last summer, Arrighetti’s cutter took full focus of his development, but this winter, he added a sinker, bolstering his arsenal and bringing his pitch mix to six options.

The addition came as another weapon to right-handed hitters. Arrighetti, who relied heavily on his four-seam fastball and sweeper against righties, wanted versatility atop the strike zone, combatting the trends of what hitters are looking for.

“I think sometimes when I get too in a groove with righties I’ll get pretty two dimensional,” Arrighetti said. “I think that this will give me another option for hitters that are a little bit better at seeing four-seam fastballs and guys that are getting better at hitting fastballs up in the zone.”

As hitters changed, so did pitchers. Arrighetti jumped ahead of his own development with his sinker, throwing it in bullpens in Triple-A Sugar Land at the end of last season. He collaborated with the Astros this offseason, got the green light and hasn’t looked back.

“If you ask any of them, I’m a little too eager to try to learn new things sometimes,” Arrighetti said. “So I’ve been pushing for a little while now to try to get something like that going.”

Even through this change, Arrighetti didn’t drop a pitch. He has kept the original five and welcomed a sixth a few months after adding the fifth option to his collection.

“Just more for hitters to think about,” Arrighetti said.

When Arrighetti got behind last year, he relied on his cutter, “the in-zone machine,” to bail himself out. The feel for the pitch came with time as he turned around his slow start in Double-A Corpus Christi into a promotion in June.

It carved up left-handed hitters, generating a high whiff rate and limiting contact rate, and stuck to his arsenal.

Now with a kitchen sink at Arrighetti’s disposal, the Astros want to see more. On Friday, Houston announced 22 non-roster invitees, including Arrighetti, who is making his first round through major league camp.

In the last few weeks, the 2021 sixth-round pick took a call from pitching coach Josh Miller, a vote of confidence for what he’s accomplished over two years in the system. Miller told Arrighetti the work doesn’t change the person he is on and off the field, and he took that to heart.

Arrighetti wants to be a good leaner when he arrives in West Palm Beach, Florida next month, speaking less and listening more. Of those guys he’s eager to hear from, Lance McCullers Jr. is one he’s built a relationship with.

“I just want to hear how other guys prepare and how other guys keep themselves strong and feeling good over the course of 160 games because it’s really tough,” Arrighetti said.

McCullers praised Arrighetti’s work ethic last offseason, and this winter, the two have ran into each other a few times this offseason at Dynamic Sports Training.

“He’s been a huge asset for me up to this point in terms of helping me understand what it really takes to be a dominant big leaguer,” Arrighetti said. “And I’m only excited to meet more of those guys and learn from them.”

Arrighetti’s invitation to major league camp was expected, but the 24 year old doesn’t base his satisfaction off those expectations. He took it as a compliment to the work he’s put in, but at the end of the day, he hasn’t accomplished anything at the major-league level.

“I usually, as the months go on, try to give myself more narrow goals,” Arrighetti said. “So that I can focus on those and actually make good progress on one thing at a time, but I would say my overarching goal for the spring is to make the big league club at some point.

“And once I get there, then obviously the goal stays the same. It’s just to keep throwing the ball really well, trying to get guys out at a high rate, keep punching guys out and don’t walk people.”

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