Cubs

Cubs won't put any innings limits on Jake Arrieta

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Cubs won't put any innings limits on Jake Arrieta

All the Matt Harvey drama in New York has dominated the baseball world over the weekend, but don't expect the same issues to pop up on Chicago's North Side.

Harvey and his super agent Scott Boras are at odds with the Mets about the right-hander's innings limit about two years removed from Tommy John surgery. 

[RELATED - Cubs think Jake Arrieta can actually get even better]

Jake Arrieta isn't coming off a major elbow procedure, but the Cubs are still watching his innings ... even if there is no limit in place.

"I've been trying to keep an eye on Jake, taking him out of some games earlier than he would have liked to been taken out of," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said the day after Arrieta threw 116 pitches over eight shutout innings. 

"And then I just explained to him that we're just trying to build it up for later in the year - 'You're gonna be pitching longer than you have ever.'"

Maddon may be managing Arrieta's innings, but he's thrown at least 90 pitches in every one of his 28 starts this season.

[RELATED - Jake Arrieta redefining dominance as he makes his case for NL Cy Young]

Arrieta has thrown 191 innings this year and is on pace for 231 innings this season (not including any playoffs), a major increase over his previous career high. 

His highest innings total in a season before this year came last season when he pitched 176.2 innings between the majors and five rehab starts in the minor leagues.

Maddon said historically, the protocol is to only increase a pitcher's workload by a jump of 20 percent in innings pitched and once a guy reaches 200, "the gloves come off."

Arrieta has never reached 200 innings so by Maddon's logic, the "gloves" should still be on, but Arrieta is 29 years old, pitching in his ninth professional season and is in ridiculous physical shape. He's shown no signs at all of slowing down, either, having not allowed an earned run in his last 29 innings.

The Cubs didn't put Arrieta on an innings limit to begin the season and it's a completely different situation than the Harvey drama in New York. 

Still, Maddon understands there's plenty to be gleaned from how the Mets are handling Harvey.

[SHOP: Buy a Jake Arrieta jersey]

"If you're ever in that situation, hopefully you're able to really define [an innings limit] in advance so that this kind of thing would never occur," Maddon said. "You want to avoid that at all costs. Especially what they're doing right now - they're playing so well; you don't need any kind of distractions.

"Its a lesson learned for us moving forward and for every other team. You don't want to be put in that situation this time of the year when you're playing this well, with all of this at stake, to have to answer those questions."

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

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USA TODAY

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

Jon Lester has arrived at Cubs camp, and he’s pleased with the new-look rotation full of potential aces. Kelly Crull and Vinnie Duber discuss the 5-man unit, and where Mike Montgomery fits into the Cubs’ plans.

Plus, Kelly and Vinnie talk Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, along with the continuing free agent stalemate surrounding Jake Arrieta.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: