NEW YORK – The Cubs aren’t pulling the plug on their best pitcher.
However the Cubs reconfigure their rotation across the last six weeks, those plans don’t include shutting down Jake Arrieta.
Rick Renteria had to put out that fire on Monday morning, the day after the manager’s comments made it sound like Arrieta might not make it to Game 162.
“I don’t know how that came about,” Renteria said at Citi Field. “But, no, there’s no plan of shutting Jake down.”
It started before Sunday’s 2-1 victory over the New York Mets, when a reporter asked Renteria about having Arrieta on the mound as a stopper after a three-game losing streak. Renteria talked about how Arrieta’s done a great job – particularly coming off a rehab assignment (right shoulder tightness) in early May – and then pivoted the conversation.
“We’re all cognizant of the fact that it’s getting later on into the season,” Renteria said. “We’re still monitoring everybody and we’re trying to make sure that we don’t put them in any peril.”
Given that the front office wants to get looks at Dan Straily, Felix Doubront and Jacob Turner – general manager Jed Hoyer mentioned getting creative – another reporter asked a follow-up question: Would you expect Arrieta to finish out the season through the end of September?
Renteria’s vague comments – the Cubs will keep monitoring Arrieta’s pitch counts and innings, evaluating and assessing the situation, etc. – framed the postgame line of questioning. That caught Arrieta off-guard as he stood by his locker after throwing seven shutout innings in another dominant start that had the Mets flailing at his curveball (two hits, nine strikeouts).
Renteria clarified the plans during Monday’s pregame media session, saying that keeping an eye on Arrieta was nothing out of the ordinary.
“We monitor everybody,” Renteria said. “I’ll be honest, I don’t know how that would be construed as shutting anybody down.”
The Cubs gave Jeff Samardzija the September shutdown after his breakthrough as a starter in 2012. Samardzija and Jason Hammel had both expressed frustrations with pitch-count limitations before getting traded to the Oakland A’s on the Fourth of July.
The Cubs also got their wires crossed with the Neil Ramirez situation last month, trying to option their best reliever to Triple-A Iowa for a timeout before putting the right-hander on the disabled list with a sore triceps muscle.
Protecting and preserving arms is a clear mandate for a last-place team building toward the future.
Arrieta is 6-4 with a 2.61 ERA through 19 starts, accounting for 117-plus innings in the big leagues. He threw 20 more innings during five rehab starts in April. He has no interest in taking an early vacation.
Arrieta’s 28 years old and solidly built with a 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame. He tossed almost 155 innings last year between his time with the Cubs, Baltimore Orioles and their Triple-A affiliates.
Depending on your perspective, this was either a simple misunderstanding, a media-driven narrative or Renteria’s blind spot when it comes to his daily obligations as a voice for the organization.
Either way, Renteria called Arrieta’s right shoulder a non-issue that doesn’t require a precautionary shutdown.
“That’s not something that we were considering,” Renteria said. “If it was interpreted as that…we’re not shutting him down. We’re not looking to shut him down. We haven’t talked about shutting him down.”