CLEARWATER, Fla. – Times have changed in baseball. When Mitch Williams joined the Phillies in 1991, he wanted John Kruk’s uniform No. 28. No problem. Kruk agreed to give up the number for two cases of beer.
To get No. 49 off of Ben Lively’s back, Jake Arrieta knew he had to come up with something nice.
“Typically you get a guy a watch or something like that,” Arrieta said.
So Arrieta approached Lively in the clubhouse.
“What kind of watch do you want?” he asked his new teammate.
“No,” Lively responded. “I need a boat.”
Arrieta, who signed a three-year, $75 million deal Monday, laughed in telling the story after throwing his first bullpen session with the Phillies on Wednesday morning.
“I thought that was pretty funny,” he said. “We’ll come up with something. Maybe a little Jon boat, something small, a little two-seater. I don’t know.”
Lively, who switched to No. 54, is a fishing enthusiast. In fact, his dad owns a charter fishing boat company in Pensacola, Florida.
Arrieta was pleased with his first bullpen session and so was pitching coach Rick Kranitz.
“He looks great to me,” said Kranitz, who was pitching coach in Baltimore when Arrieta debuted with the Orioles in 2010. “He always stays in shape. What I was looking for today was how the ball was coming out of his hand and it was coming out great. I didn’t expect anything different.”
Arrieta threw about 50 pitches. He hopes to pitch in a minor-league game Saturday. Kranitz mentioned that the right-hander might first throw live batting practice. Either way, Arrieta believes he will be ready for the first week of the regular season, though nothing official has been mapped out. He had been throwing regularly near his home in Austin, Texas, before signing with the Phillies.
“My arm feels great, my body is healthy,” Arrieta said after throwing to Andrew Knapp in the bullpen. “It feels good to be back in baseball pants. It’s the start to the next chapter of my life and my career and I’m excited about.”
Arrieta threw his bullpen session at the minor-league complex with a couple of dozen minor-league pitchers looking on. Arrieta remembered doing the same thing when he was a young minor-leaguer with the Orioles.
“Experiences like that bring you back,” he said.
Arrieta is eager to pitch in Citizens Bank Park — for the home team.
“It’s a great ballpark,” he said. “I’ve been heckled quite a bit from the Phillies fans but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. It was always good banter. Sometimes I would turn around and laugh. I always appreciated their intense nature.
“When you’re in an atmosphere like this in professional sports you expect your home fans to do their part in talking some trash to the opposition. The energy level is always high in that place. I look forward to finishing spring strong and getting up there. I feel like I’ll be welcomed with open arms.”