MESA, Ariz. - The drama is over: Jake Arrieta is the Cubs' Opening Day starter.
Not that there was much drama to begin with.
[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]
Maddon announced Tuesday Arrieta would get the ball when the Cubs square off against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim April 4.
"Of course, he's very excited about it," Maddon said. "He's earned that right to be named that particular Opening Day starter.
"If you're a starting pitcher, it really carries a lot of prestige along with it. And he's earned it. We're very pleased to be able to announce that."
Arrieta is the reigning National League Cy Young winner, leading the league with 22 wins while posting a 1.77 ERA, 0.865 WHIP and 236 strikeouts in 229 innings last season. He also tossed four complete games and three shutouts, both tops in the NL.
Jon Lester started Opening Day for the Cubs in 2015, coming off the $155 million contract he signed before the season. But he wasn't surprised at all by Maddon tabbing Arrieta as this season's Opening Day starter.
"It's about time, right?" Lester said. "It's good. I'm more than happy for Jake. Once you get named, obviously you're very excited and stuff. But it's one of those days that kinda sucks. You got a lot of stuff going on.
"I think it's one of the hardest days of the year to pitch, personally. A lot of distractions, a lot of things going on, obviously. Everybody's very excited to get the year going. You're excited. A lot of outside things that are hard to control.
"But we all knew he was going to get that honor. I'm excited for him. It's awesome. It's a cool deal. It's something not a lot of people get to do, especially for organizations like this. It'll be a cool day."
This will be Arrieta's second career Opening Day start, as he also got the nod in 2012 with the Baltimore Orioles. In that game, Arrieta tossed seven shutout innings to pick up the win.
Lester doesn't think the past experience will necessarily help Arrieta deal with the emotions of opening this season with the Cubs.
"I don't know. I think everybody's different," Lester said. "For me, no. Every year, it's different. You have different years with different hype and expectations and you're coming off different years and all this stuff.
"I think there's a lot of other things that go into it that make every Opening Day kinda unique. No matter how many times you do, I don't think it makes it any easier."
Maddon wouldn't commit to the rotation beyond Arrieta, saying it would be "jumping the gun" to set the rest of the order in stone more than a month before the first game, before Cactus League action has even started.
However, he did allow that Lester and John Lackey are most likely going to follow Arrieta.
As it stands right now, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks are expected to fill out the rest of the rotation, but the Cubs have plenty of depth pushing those two guys, including Adam Warren and Trevor Cahill.
"I can't deny the incumbents coming back would have some kind of advantage. That's probably true," Maddon said. "You just have to keep an open mind. You can't be deceived by spring training performances.
"So let 'em play out. Of course, the incumbents have an advantage, but we're going to keep a really open mind going through the entire camp."