Jake Arrieta will not take the ball Sunday for the Cubs in the final regular season game of 2017.
The Cubs have officially announced Mike Montgomery as the starter for the final regular season game, opting to give Arrieta some rest instead of pushing his hamstring in game action. That also means he may not pitch again until Game 3 or 4 of the National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals and the Cubs have no concerns at the moment that Arrieta won't be ready to go in the postseason.
The Cubs locked up the division Wednesday night in St. Louis, so this weekend's three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field has a very spring training feel to it.
Arrieta admitted he came back a little too soon on Sept. 21, when he helped the Cubs beat the Milwaukee Brewers with five innings of one-run ball. That was just over two weeks after he walked off the mound in Pittsburgh clutching the back of his right leg.
"I wanted to be out there as soon as I could," he said Friday morning inside the Cubs Wrigley Field clubhouse. "I was able to go out there, but a couple more days would've been nice for recovery. We were in a spot where we needed to win some games and I wanted to be out there to do everything I could to help that out."
Arrieta is planning on throwing a simulated game at some point this weekend and the Cubs will go for a bullpen day Sunday after Montgomery, manager Joe Maddon said.
Arrieta said his mechanics are good, his arm feels fine and his strength is there, so he's not really focused on needing more time in bullpens. He wants to face hitters, but do it more in a controlled environment of a simulated scenario rather than in a live game.
He's still not 100 percent, though he's close.
"Really the only time I feel [the hamstring] is max effort on the mound," Arrieta said. "So it's good to get a couple extra days off, especially in the situation we're in — we're already in the playoffs.
"Any time you're in the game, put a hitter in there, it's hard to take a step back. Especially at the time, we were still fighting to kinda secure our playoff spot. It's nice now to have a few days just to completely do nothing, work with the trainers, do some stuff for recovery, do some cryo, some hyperbaric chamber, all these different laser lights we have that promote healing and regenerate cell growth.
"That's kinda what we're gonna focus on the next couple days and then get out there for a sim game and get everything tightened up. But other than that, I feel great. When my time comes, I'll be ready, regardless of when that is."
Arrieta isn't worried about his max effort, knowing he's in control of his body and has enough strength and knowledge to know how to back off his hamstring if need be and rely more on his arm. Like he said, it's not like he's trying to throw the ball through a brick wall.
By taking the rest route, the Cubs also have ruled out Arrieta to start Game 1 of the NLDS in Washington. In fact, the way things are shaking out now, he wouldn't get his first postseason start until Games 3 or 4 back in Chicago on Oct. 9 or 10.
"Part of the deal that we're doing would be to gain more time to make Jake well and then push him in the latter part of the rotation," Maddon said. "So it would not impact the front part of it."
Maddon didn't announce who his Game 1 starter would be in D.C., but Kyle Hendricks may be emerging as the favorite, especially after throwing five shutout innings Thursday against the Cardinals in his final start of the regular season.
However with Arrieta, there is no concrete plan beyond just making sure he gets some rest and back as close to 100 percent as possible.
That will mean at least the one sim game over the next week before the NLDS begins.
"You gotta exert yourself a little bit to make sure that it's well," Maddon said. "That's the tricky part of it - you have to push it a little bit. We're trying to extend the rest period before he does it again.
"And then when he does it again, he's gotta actually go out there and pitch. We'll see. Listen, I don't have any solid answers other than that's what we're thinking about doing right now.
"We'll see how it all plays out. And then if it plays well, everything's cool. And if it doesn't, then you have to make another plan."