Cubs

Cubs hope Jake Arrieta's blister won't knock him off Opening Day track

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Cubs hope Jake Arrieta's blister won't knock him off Opening Day track

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Cubs are as deep and as talented as any team on paper, but it’s still difficult to see them withstanding the loss of Jake Arrieta and making a World Series run.

The sight of a Cy Young Award winner walking off the mound in the middle of the first inning — and then making a fist — had to be unsettling for Cubs fans in the sellout crowd at Scottsdale Stadium or watching back home on ESPN.

“Of course,” manager Joe Maddon said after Thursday night’s 16-14 win over the San Francisco Giants. “We don’t want to lose him. We don’t want to miss him. But I don’t really think it’s anything awful.”

In the grand scheme of things, the Cubs should be able to manage the blister on their ace’s right thumb. It ended Arrieta vs. Madison Bumgarner before it ever really began in Old Town. 

Arrieta didn’t sound concerned after facing seven Giants and giving up four hits and two walks, leaving a bases-loaded jam for minor-league pitcher Michael Jensen and then getting charged with five runs.

“It was just quite tender,” Arrieta said. “I had it covered in superglue, and that was actually preventing me from applying the right amount of pressure on my pitches. Everything was just kind of slipping off of my thumb. So I really couldn’t finish or get the good rotation on my breaking stuff.

“We got the skin kind of evened out. It’s really not that bad. It’s just something I need to give a few days and let the skin harden around it (and) get that thing out of there. But, physically, everything’s fine.”

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Arrieta blamed it on Arizona’s dry climate and said he dealt with a blister on a different spot on his thumb last week and still managed to throw a bullpen session two days later.

Arrieta also said pitching coach Chris Bosio and guest instructor/ESPN broadcaster Rick Sutcliffe noticed the difference while he warmed up in the bullpen before the game. Maddon visited Arrieta on the mound twice in the first inning and saw enough after 34 pitches.

“Overall, I’m not hyper-concerned right now,” Maddon said. “Let’s look at it and not jump the gun and see what happens.”

Just listening to Arrieta talk in full paragraphs and reading his body language, he did not seem at all worried about being able to ramp up for his Opening Day start on April 4 at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Stay tuned.

“We’ll just let it heal and go from there,” Arrieta said. “We’re not in any trouble with missing any time or having to be skipped or anything like that.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

It was a tough day for the North Siders.

The Cubs got obliterated by the Cardinals as Matt Carpenter had a three-homer, two-double day. Ben Finfer, Seth Gruen and Maggie Hendricks join David Kaplan on the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast to talk about the blowout.

Was Jon Lester due for this kind of terrible outing? And do the Cubs have enough to swing a big trade before the deadline?

Plus, the panel discusses Matt Nagy’s first training camp practice in the rain and Roquan Smith’s absence in Bourbonnais.

You can listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester had easily his worst outing of the year, allowing the Cardinals to score eight runs on seven hits, the veteran All-Star only managed three innings before Joe Maddon turned to his bullpen. 

The Cardinals would take game two of the series by the score of 18 to 5, and while none of the Cubs pitchers could silence the Cardinal bats, Lester didn't shy away from his poor outing. 

"You know, I don't want to chalk this up as bad days happen," said Lester. "I think mechanically this has kinda been coming." 

Lester knew he was struggling to hit his spots, and while his ERA was a sparkling 2.58 coming into this start, his peripheral stats had him pegged as a potential regression candidate in the second half of the season.

His 4.35 FIP and 3.30 walks per nine innings show a pitcher who is relying heavily on his defense to get outs, which isn't surprising for a 33-year-old veteran but the walks are a concern. 

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was aware Lester had been working on his mechanics, but even he was surprised that Lester's start went downhill so quickly. 

"I thought he had good stuff to start the game, hitting [92-93 mph] and I'm thinking this might be a good day," said Maddon. "But you could just see from the beginning he was off just a little bit." 

Over Lester's last four starts his ERA has been an uncharacteristic 4.57, issuing 10 walks over those four starts, and only making it past the 6th inning once. At this point of Lester's career, he knows the best way for him to get outs isn't through strikeouts but by inducing soft contact and avoiding walks. 

And while both his hard contact rate and walks have increased this season, Lester's experience and high baseball I.Q. has allowed him to navigate his way through sticky situations. 

"I've been getting outs," Lester said candidly. "I just feel like when I've had that strikeout or I have a guy set up for that pitch I haven't been able to execute it." 

And while this outing was one to forget, it's at least a positive sign that Lester is aware of his issues on the mound. The veteran knows how to get outs and he knows what he needs to do to be successful in the latter part of his career. He just needs to get back to executing those pitches. 

Just don't expect Lester to dive head first into the analytics on how to fix his issues, he'll stick to hard work and baseball common sense. 

"I'm not too concerned with the analytic B.S., I'm worried about my mechanical fix for my next start."