Cubs

Cubs: How Jake Arrieta plans to explode through the wall in 2016

jakearrietacubs022016.png

Cubs: How Jake Arrieta plans to explode through the wall in 2016

MESA, Ariz. - Jake Arrieta hasn't left anything open to debate.

He has admitted several times he ran into a wall in October last season, when he gave up eight earned runs in his final two postseason starts.

Arrieta saw a jump of almost 75 innings from 2014 (176.2) to 2015 (248.2, including playoffs).

It didn't matter what shape he was in or how old he was. Arrieta ran out of gas.

He acknowledged his mindset last year was to try to pitch into the eighth and ninth innings each time out, but understands it's time for a different approach in 2016.

"Going into this season, it's obviously very wise to monitor things early in the season to preserve things for October and so on and so forth," Arrieta said. "As nice as it is to complete games as a starter, it's even nicer to pitch meaningful games in October, as I now know from last year's experiences."

Cubs manager Joe Maddon feels Arrieta is better for the experience of wearing down.

"He gets it now," Maddon said. "Guys like him who have never been through it before, you pretty much feel like you're invincible, like you can do anything.

"So at least now, he's had the experience of what it feels like to be in that position and he knows it now firsthand. My job and (pitching coach Chris Bosio's) job should be somewhat easier in regards to harnessing him just a bit during the season.

"That's it. Not talking about treating him like a kid or backing up, just being a little bit more intelligent about the latter part of the game with the lead and when to get him out."

[MORE: Joe Maddon wants Cubs to embrace target on their back]

Even if Arrieta hadn't run into a wall, Maddon said the Cubs were planning on limiting the right-hander's innings in 2016 anyway, given the significant increase.

It's easy for Maddon and Arrieta to say now that they'll reduce his innings, but will it be tough to do that down the stretch?

"I don't think so," Arrieta said. "Maybe a couple years ago or even last year, a little bit. I think Joe is the leader on this aspect. You gotta check your ego at the door. It doesn't matter individually at this point.

"We were in the NLCS last year. We expect to go one step further this year. So if we want to do that, there's certain sacrifices that have to be made. I'm more than willing to make those sacrifices to be better for my team later in the season.

"... If that means six or seven innings for a certain amount of starts to let our big arms in the 'pen come in and do their thing...those things are much more important than for me as an individual to get eight or nine innings.

"It looks good on paper, but a ring looks a little bit better at the end of November."

Maddon didn't want to tab Arrieta as the Cubs' Opening Day starter until he got a chance to talk to all of his players. But the manager did allow that anybody "could draw your own conclusions about it," pointing to Arrieta's Cy Young and taking the ball in the winner-take-all wild card game in Pittsburgh.

Arrieta is a fitness freak whose workout regimen is becoming legendary, to the point where teammates and opposing players and coaches are asking him about it.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Cubs fans!]

And why not? Everybody saw how Arrieta kept getting stronger as the regular season ended, turning in a second half for the ages with a record-setting 0.75 ERA that included a no-hitter.

Arrieta said he wasn't able to wrap his head around the magnitude of his second half until the postseason had ended and he wonders whether his new record will ever be broken.

Arrieta also understands how luck played on his side, knowing a lot of those numbers were out of his control.

So what could he possibly do for an encore? How does anybody follow up that type of season?

"In regards to pressure or expectations to recreate what you've done in the past, those thoughts are really worthless," Maddon said. "They don't do anything for you right now. That was the crux of my message [to him] was we have to stay in the moment and the process has to be our anchor.

"If we do that, it'll lessen the threat that he's gonna attempt to replicate or recreate exactly what he had done last year.

"Every season, every moment provides new experience. I think he understands that."

Willson Contreras commissions heart-warming painting commemorating his relationship with Joe Maddon

usatsi_12702918.jpg
USA Today

Willson Contreras commissions heart-warming painting commemorating his relationship with Joe Maddon

Joe Maddon’s time with the Cubs may be over, but the memories made in his five years on the North Side will live on in Chicago sports lore forever. No matter how frustratingly his tenure may have ended, the outpouring of support and appreciation from management, fans and players alike throughout the process of Maddon’s departure are evidence of that.

“I love him like a dad,” Anthony Rizzo said

“I personally never could have imagined having such a wonderful partner,” Theo Epstein later added, standing beside Maddon as they delivered joint reflections on the end of the era.

Maddon touched the lives of so many within the organization and without in his time with the Cubs, but not many more so than catcher Willson Contreras, who burst onto the scene as one of the best young sluggers in baseball under Maddon’s guidance. Maddon — a catcher himself in his short time as a player — never shied away from criticizing Contreras in times he thought it earned, but it’s clear that the two forged a real bond over the last four years. 

Sunday afternoon, artist Austin Ploch revealed that Contreras reached out to him shortly after the end of the 2019 season to commission this heart-warming piece, commemorating the mutual respect and adoration between mentor and pupil:

The painting is derived from a photo of the two that Contreras posted to his Instagram account after it was officially announced that Maddon would not return as the Cubs manager:

Ploch has commissioned work for Contreras before, but now Willson will have a tangible memento to remember his first manager (along with his 2016 World Series ring). We’re not crying, you’re crying.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.

Cubs to reportedly conduct second interview with Joe Espada for managerial opening

Cubs to reportedly conduct second interview with Joe Espada for managerial opening

Astros bench coach Joe Espada has two days off before Houston hosts Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday, but it looks like some of that time will be spent in Chicago.

According to multiple reports, the Cubs will interview Espada a second time for their managerial opening. MLB Network's Jon Heyman reports that the interview is happening on Sunday.

Espada is one of the more sought after managerial candidates this offseason, as he's spent the last six seasons with two of baseball's leading franchises. The 44-year-old has been Astros bench coach since 2018, and prior to that, he spent four seasons with the Yankees — 2014 as a front office assistant, 2015-17 as third base coach.

David Ross was the presumed favorite for the Cubs' opening, when the process got underway. However, by landing a second interview, Espada has clearly given the team something to think about. In fact, NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan reported on Thursday the Cubs came away "exceptionally impressed" from Espada's first interview on Monday. 

MLB prefers teams not to make managerial announcements during the World Series. So, it might be a few more weeks before the Cubs announce their decision, unless they do so on Sunday or Monday.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.