PITTSBURGH – Jake Arrieta definitely felt something more than just a cramp in his right leg, but the Cubs also didn’t get the worst-case news that could have ruined their season.
Arrieta is looking at a seven-to-10-day window to recover after Tuesday’s MRI revealed a Grade 1 hamstring strain, meaning he could miss one or two starts at a time when the Cubs are running 3.5 games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central and the St. Louis Cardinals are still lurking above .500.
“You don’t want to miss a start,” Arrieta said after a 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. “But at the same time, this is something that certain times you can’t prepare for.
“Things happen. I think it’s good that if it had to happen – if it was going to happen – now is better than in a couple weeks. Use the next week to work with the training staff and do some things for mobility, stability and then strength.
“It stinks to miss any time at all, but it should be short.”
Arrieta hobbling off the field in the middle of a 12-0 Labor Day loss shouldn’t become the end scene to an excellent Cubs career where he’s won a Cy Young Award and a World Series ring, going 68-30 with a 2.72 ERA and setting himself up for a nine-figure megadeal this offseason.
Arrieta keeps his body in peak condition with a fanatical strength-and-conditioning program and carries himself with the supreme confidence that made him optimistically predict: “Maybe five, six days from now, get back on the bump and get back to work.”
In the meantime, lefty Mike Montgomery will stick in the rotation and face the Brewers in a Saturday showdown at Wrigley Field. All of this is prefaced with if the Cubs get to October, but after accounting for 28 starts and 160-plus innings, Arrieta (14-9, 3.48 ERA) believes his right arm will stay in good shape.
“If this were to happen in April, May, I think it would be more of an issue,” Arrieta said. “Taking five or six days off of throwing is something that I’ve done multiple times this late in the season anyways. So as far as arm strength goes, I think it might even help a little bit.”
Arrieta is also a power pitcher with unique mechanics who had been completely locked in during his 10 starts since the All-Star break (6-2, 1.98 ERA) and will need to rediscover the rhythm that created flashbacks to his 2015 Cy Young Award campaign.
“I really don’t think it’s that difficult,” Arrieta said. “It sucks to miss a start – or to miss time at all. But as a starting pitcher, if I’m out seven to 10 days, that could only mean one start, potentially two.
“I just look forward to this week, regaining the strength in the muscle, letting it kind of naturally heal on its own for a couple days. And then moving forward probably in five to six days and pick up where I left off.”