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.”
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.”