PHOENIX — The Dodgers had a new face in camp on Tuesday as pitchers and catchers reported to Camelback Ranch, but despite an early case of mistaken identity it was not free agent Jake Arrieta.
When a hirsute right-hander was walking in with his Cubs duffle bag from the players parking lot into the Dodgers facilities there was some commotion among watching media that this new pitcher was in fact Arrieta, that the Dodgers somehow swooped in to sign the free agent just days after falling short in a bid to retain Yu Darvish.
But it was actually Brian Schlitter, signed to a minor league contract by the Dodgers that includes a non-roster invitation to big league camp. He said he agreed to terms with the club on Friday.
Manager Dave Roberts said he watched video of Schlitter but hadn’t yet seen him here in camp. Roberts was shown a picture of Schlitter walking into the complex from this morning (when it was dark), and immediately saw the resemblance.
“With the Cubs bag, that’s Arrieta,” Roberts said, laughing.
Schlitter pitched parts of three seasons (2010, 2014-15) in the big leagues with the Cubs, including a 4.15 ERA in 61 relief appearances in 2014. He turned 32 in December.
He doesn’t really strike that many batters out, with just a 12.9% K rate in the majors, though he did strike out 23.3% of batters faced in Triple-A Albuquerque in the Rockies system in 2016.
Schlitter pitched with the Seibu Lions of the Japanese Pacific League in 2017, posting a 2.83 ERA in 63⅔ frames. In Japan Schlitter’s strikeout rate plummeted to just 8.6%, and he had more walks (29) than strikeouts (23).
“I didn’t change how I pitched. Hitters are hitters,” Schlitter said. “There are more hitters over there just looking to make contact.”
Schlitter relies heavily on his sinker, throwing the pitch 68% of the time while in the majors per Brooks Baseball. His ground ball rate was 56.5% in the majors and 48.3% with Albuquerque in 2016.
He joins a deep Dodgers pitching staff, and one that saw 11 different pitchers throw in at least 20 games in relief in 2017.
“Teams are always looking for more pitching, and I thought this would be a good opportunity,” Schlitter said. “It’s a great team here and they’ve had a lot of success. I’m fortunate to be a part of the process going forward.”
Schlitter will wear uniform number 50.
With the addition of Schliter there are 62 players expected in big league camp. Though several are already here, position players don’t technically report to camp until Saturday. That also doesn’t include Chase Utley, who isn’t at Camelback Ranch or even officially a Dodger ... yet.