MESA, Ariz. — Jake Arrieta's struggles with walks are not amusing to him, the Cubs or the fanbase, but the way the 31-year-old explained his control issues in his second spring start certainly was entertaining.
"I felt like I was left-handed," Arrieta said of his third inning Sunday, when he walked two straight Oakland A's hitters. "For eight pitches there, I just lost feel. And it happens. This is a good time for it to happen."
Arrieta admitted he wasn't sure where his release point was for those eight pitches.
"Just one of those weird situations that kinda happens," Arrieta said. "There's nothing you can do about it. It's better to have it now than June or July. ... The feel will start to come along even more as I continue to progress."
Arrieta did not allow a hit in three innings Sunday and struck out five batters, but three walks were somewhat alarming and led to one run in his final frame.
Of course, it was only Arrieta's second start since Game 6 of the World Series on the first day of November, and he attributes a lot of his control issues to that rust.
"I think that's probably the biggest factor — second time out there," Arrieta said. "I didn't have any nervous energy, which is good. [Last time], I felt like a little kid playing his first Little League game.
"It's early still. But physically, arm strength — everything there is good. I just want to tighten things up, which I'll use the next 3-4 outings for."
Arrieta can't point directly to what the cause of the issue was immediately after his start, but planned to break it down on video and his initial thought was an issue with his arm path in addition to the release point.
So how does he fix it?
"You just try and simplify things," the 2015 National League Cy Young winner said. "You try and gather over the rubber, have a good balance point and good direction to the plate and let your arm just kinda be there.
"It's kinda like muscle memory until you just forget it. It just kinda goes away. I've talked to [John] Lackey and [Jon] Lester about the same thing. We've all had it from time to time. You just hope it doesn't happen in a huge situation.
"But if those things do happen, you try and back off the accelerator a little bit and try and use more of a finesse and try and regain your command of the strike zone."
He plans to do some dry drills Monday and then get back in the bullpen and throw 60-65 pitches Tueday to work out the kinks.
Arrieta walked 76 batters in 197.1 innings last season, averaging 3.5 walks per nine innings.
He helps mitigate that damage by being the toughest pitcher to hit in the league (he led the majors in hits per nine innings each of the last two seasons).
"It does help when you have the stuff that can make up for those walks," Arrieta said. "But again, if you allow those things to kind of carry over in the season — which I don't want it to do — it limits your ability to pitch deep into the game (seventh, eighth, ninth). And that's obviously, as a starter, what you want to do. You want to get 27 outs.
"I need to clean some things up still. But it's a give and take there. If you can manage some of the walks — which I know I'm confident I can — it'll be in my favor to do so."