MESA, Ariz. – Jake Arrieta didn’t sound too concerned about that “shoulder tightness,” insisting he’s pain-free at the beginning of what could be a crossroads season in his career.
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Pitchers and catchers hadn’t even gone through their first official workout at Cubs Park yet, so Arrieta didn’t want to rule out being ready for the Opening Day rotation. He framed the decision to restart and scale back his throwing program as precautionary.
“With the way I work, and the way I go about my business, I don’t think that Opening Day’s a far stretch,” Arrieta said Friday. “We don’t want to set a date too early and try and get there before we’re ready. It’s just something we’ve put in place to kind of progress slowly and see where we’re at, but I’m confident that I’ll be ready.”
The day before, new manager Rick Renteria had said the Cubs aren’t counting on Arrieta for the start of the season, and could get by with Carlos Villanueva, Chris Rusin or James McDonald as the fifth starter.
Arrieta, who has an offseason home in Austin, Texas, said he felt something in his right shoulder a few weeks ago. He thinks he might have ramped up his throwing program too soon. He had already stretched out to long toss for a few weeks before the setback. He likes the way he’s responded in Arizona.
“The biggest test is going out there and throwing,” Arrieta said. “I’ve done that a couple times, no restrictions, no limitations. That, for me, is the biggest sign of improvement. Moving forward, I feel really good.”
Arrieta had been an Opening Day starter for the Baltimore Orioles in 2012, but never quite lived up to the potential there. He will turn 28 next month and won’t be a free agent until after the 2017 season. After coming over in the Scott Feldman trade last summer, he went 4-2 with a 3.66 ERA in nine starts for the Cubs.
“I see myself being here for the long haul,” Arrieta said. “It’s an incredible city and an incredible organization. It’s tough to see yourself in a better spot than this. I look forward to picking up where I left off and the sky’s the limit. I think I’ve built and built and built, year after year. This is a big year for me and I’m ready for it.”