The Orioles may not have recognized Jake Arrieta at Wrigley Field Friday afternoon. After all, he's a completely different pitcher since he last put on a Baltimore uniform 14 months ago.
The 28-year-old righty never lived up to his top-prospect billing with the Orioles, but has found his way again with the Cubs, developing into a frontline starter and a franchise cornerstone after coming over in a trade last July.
Arrieta showed how far he's come with a gem against his former team Friday, allowing just four hits, one walk and one run in seven innings. He picked up his seventh victory of the year and lowered his ERA to 2.53 in the process.
"There's a little bit more to it with it being your former team," Arrieta said. "After the first inning, it was just kinda business as usual.
"It's nice to face those guys. It's good to see a lot of them again. It's been a while. It was just another start for me, really, after that point."
Arrieta said he talked to a few of his former Baltimore teammates before and during Friday's game, but planned to catch up with more throughout the weekend.
He retired the first 13 batters he faced, once again flirting with a no-hitter into the fifth inning, the fifth time he's done that in his last 13 starts.
"Using all the information that I'm able to acquire in between starts [is part of why I've had success early in games]," Arrieta said. "Knowing my body better, knowing how to execute at a higher percentage. Those things are really starting to translate."
Arrieta showed flashes of his potential while in Baltimore, but wound up spending his last few seasons there bouncing between the big leagues and Triple-A, never quite able to put it all together.
With the Cubs, he's been near the top of his game almost every time out over the last three months.
"He had [consistency] for periods with us," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He was starting Opening Day. ... That's the way things work out. We wish him well."
After the game, Arrieta reflected on his time in Baltimore and pointed to an uptick in command and an ability to make adjustments as big reasons for his development into a top-of-the-rotation starter.
"I think about [Baltimore] all the time," he said. "It was just part of my development. Those years still are very important for a lot of reasons. Regardless of how certain situations went negatively or positively, they all impacted my career in a certain way.
"I'm thankful for those times over there, those years there. And I'll continue to use them for future reference, to reach back in the memory bank to think back to certain times and situations that I had there that I have now, how I react or handle those. So yeah, I think about it a lot."
Arrieta wasn't the only former Oriole to go up against his old team. Cubs setup man Pedro Strop, also in the Arrieta deal, pitched a scoreless eighth inning and recorded a hold.
"It was a little weird because those are the guys that used to be my teammates," Strop said. "I was a little pumped up, obviously."
Cubs manager Rick Renteria thought both pitchers channeled their intensity in the right way and didn't let the weight of the matchup get to them.
"Whenever you face your former club, there's always some adrenaline, but they seemed to contain it," Renteria said. "If they had, I didn't really see it affecting them. I thought they did a nice job."