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.”
[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]
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.”