Cubs

Cubs: Jake Arrieta's blister could become a real issue by Opening Day

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Cubs: Jake Arrieta's blister could become a real issue by Opening Day

MESA, Ariz. – As confident as Jake Arrieta sounds, Cubs manager Joe Maddon still can’t guarantee that the Cy Young Award winner will be ready for Opening Day.

“I don’t know that yet, quite frankly,” Maddon said Friday at the Sloan Park complex, the morning after Arrieta left his prime-time start with a blister on his right thumb. “I would say that he needs to get a legitimate amount of stretching out between now and that moment for us to feel comfortable with it.”

Arrieta covered it in Neosporin overnight, disappointed he only threw 34 pitches against the San Francisco Giants and had to leave a national-TV game in the middle of the first inning at Scottsdale Stadium, the best atmosphere in the Cactus League.

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Arrieta planned to throw a bullpen session on Saturday, at which point there will only be nine days left until the season opener at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.  

“Blisters can be funny,” Maddon said. “Right now, we haven’t called off the jam yet. But you want to look at it, I would say, after maybe another day or two (and) then try to make our best determination at that point.

“You don’t want it to be chronic. They can become more chronic. And you don’t want that to happen. 

“Opening Day starter is always very prestigious. However, so is winning the World Series. And you definitely want to make the right call.” 

[MORE: Heyward vs. Bumgarner: After all the hype, Cubs know they are a target]

Arrieta had trouble applying pressure to his pitches and finishing off his breaking stuff against the first seven hitters in San Francisco’s lineup, giving up four hits and two walks and getting charged with five runs.      

Coming off an unbelievable year (22-6, 1.77 ERA) that saw him throw almost 250 innings, Arrieta is now so important to the Cubs and their championship hopes that pretty much anything to do with his health is newsworthy.

“I understand it,” Arrieta said. “But at the same time, it’s really not an issue. That was just a precaution yesterday. There’s no reason to kind of stay out there and allow it to potentially open up.

“It’s in a good place. We’re in a good spot.”  

Joe Maddon goes after Sean Doolittle's delivery: ‘That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do’

Joe Maddon goes after Sean Doolittle's delivery: ‘That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do’

The Cubs finished Saturday's loss at the Nationals under protest after Joe Maddon saw what he believed to be an inconsistency in how illegal pitches are being called.

Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle came in to close the game out in the ninth with the Nats up 5-2. After one pitch, Maddon went to the umpires to complain. This dragged on throughout the inning.

Maddon didn't like that Doolittle's delivery involved him pausing and potentially even touching the ground in the middle of his wind up before coming home with the pitch. To Maddon, it was clearly an illegal pitch and he was fired up because that's something Carl Edwards Jr. got called for earlier in the season. By comparison, Edwards' version may be more deliberate, but Maddon thinks it is the same thing.

"That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do," Maddon said postgame in a video posted by ESPN's Jesse Rogers. "There's no judgment. If he taps the ground, it's an illegal pitch, period. There's nothing to judge. You can judge whether he did or not. It's obvious that he did, or if you can't tell that then there's something absolutely wrong."

Maddon and the Cubs protested the game as a result. If they win the protest, the game would be restarted with one out in the ninth, when Maddon notified the umpires of the protest.

Doolittle was less than amused by Maddon's protest.

"I have no qualms against Doolittle," Maddon said. "He's great, but they took it away from our guy so for me to sit in the dugout and permit that to happen while they stripped us of that ability earlier this year with Carl, how could I do that? You can't do that. I got to say something."

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Jon Lester's hot streak comes to an end at Nationals

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USA TODAY

Jon Lester's hot streak comes to an end at Nationals

Jon Lester was on a heck of a run since coming off the IL in late April, but it came to a screeching halt on Saturday.

Lester had by far his worst start of the season at the Nationals in a 5-2 Cubs loss. He labored through his start, giving up five runs in 4 1/3 innings.

Lester gave up 10 hits, which matches the most he has given up since joining the Cubs. He gave up a fair number of hits in his last two starts, but was able to avoid trouble on the scoreboard. Lester gave up nine hits in 6 2/3 innings against the Brewers last time out, but only gave up an unearned run. On May 7, Lester gave up eight hits to the Marlins, but only allowed two unearned runs in six innings of work.

This time, Lester couldn’t stay out of trouble. Brian Dozier got the Nats on the board with a solo shot in the second and then the wheels came off in the third.

To open the third inning Lester gave up six straight hits. The Nats got three runs that inning and then added another in the fifth, when Lester departed the game.

Since Lester came off the IL on April 25, he had allowed just one earned run (four runs in total) in 24 2/3 innings. During that stretch, he had 25 strikeouts against just two walks. His ERA fell to 1.16, which would have led all of baseball if he had enough innings to qualify. It’s at 2.09 after Saturday’s loss.

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