MESA, Ariz. – Jake Arrieta is trying to look at the big picture, accepting the reality he will start the season on the disabled list while still believing this could be the breakthrough year the Cubs envisioned.
Arrieta took another step forward on Sunday at Cubs Park, throwing live batting practice for the first time this spring. The 28-year-old right-hander is trying to play catch-up after he felt shoulder stiffness this winter, forcing the Cubs to shut down and reboot his throwing program.
The Cubs hope Arrieta – who went 4-2 with a 3.66 ERA in nine starts after last summer’s Scott Feldman trade with the Baltimore Orioles – can develop into a big part of their rotation.
“I don’t think any of that has really changed,” Arrieta said. “It’s just a week-or-two setback. Two starts. I think in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not that big of an issue.
“It would have been nice to not miss these couple weeks, but health is the biggest priority. We’re just making sure that I’m able to help our guys win for the majority of the season. That’s where we’re at.”
Following his gameday routine, Arrieta threw 41 warm-up pitches in the bullpen. He threw 24 more during live batting practice against Josh Vitters and Christian Villanueva on Field 1.
“Couldn’t be happier with how that went,” pitching coach Chris Bosio said afterward. “The biggest thing is how he feels tomorrow.”
Arrieta said he threw all his pitches for strikes while trying to develop a feel for his off-speed stuff. The next step would be a bullpen session scheduled for Tuesday. The Cubs could use veteran swingman Carlos Villanueva as the fifth starter in April.
“I’ve been pitching since I was five years old,” Arrieta said. “Everyone deals with aches and pains. But sometimes you get a feeling that you’re uncertain with and that’s where some of the caution comes. Because the last thing I want to do is be on the DL for three months. I’m fighting to get on the field with my team. So only having to miss a start or two isn’t the worst case.”