Eight days shy of a year after his last big-league start, Jake Arrieta gets the ball for the Phillies in Yankee Stadium on Monday night.
Arrieta will oppose Yankees ace Gerrit Cole as the Phillies restart their season eight days after their last game.
Since his last start, August 11, 2019 in San Francisco, Arrieta has had elbow surgery, gone through a complete rehab, pitched in spring training, endured a shutdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic, ramped up during July summer camp and watched his team play three games then shut down again after the Miami Marlins suffered an outbreak of the virus last weekend at Citizens Bank Park.
With the ballpark closed much of the week, Arrieta and teammate Tommy Hunter found a field in South Jersey and kept their arms loose. Arrieta revved his engines in a workout at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday and believes he can throw 85-plus pitches in his long-awaited season debut Monday night.
"It feels great to finally have a start lined up," he said. "It's been frustrating, but at the same time, I haven't been dwelling on that too much because we are all in a really tough situation having to deal with so many different factors that have kind of derailed the beginning of our season. We knew these were going to be tough times and we're doing the best we can to stay ready.
"I've thrown in a few (simulated) games, I've thrown a bunch of bullpens, extended bullpens to keep the pitch count pretty high. But it's really tough to do unless you're in real-game situations. But I'm in a good spot. I'm going to be able to give my team what we need. I'm really looking forward to getting into a real game finally.
"Physically, I feel pretty close to midseason form as far as the body. There's really no aches and pains, which is something you're accustomed to near midseason. So the body feels pretty fresh, and the feel of all my stuff is there."
The Phillies have yet to announce who will follow Arrieta in the rotation. As if the Phils haven't been through enough with seven postponements, bad weather is steaming up the coast from the south and that could cause more problems with scheduling. Even if Mother Nature cooperates, the Phillies would have to play 57 games in 56 days to play their full 60-game season.
"These are weird times as you know," Arrieta said. "Other teams have been able to play more games than us and haven't been affected schedule-wise as much as we have, but we're not going to complain about it. We can't make any excuses.
"It would seem that we are at a disadvantage, not being able to play pretty much every day like we're accustomed to. But if you lean too much on that, it could creep into your mind too heavily and could most certainly affect your performance."
The season is just 11 days old and already 33 games around Major League Baseball have been postponed because of COVID-19 concerns. Nonetheless, MLB and the players union remain committed to pushing on with the 60-game season. But given all these starts, stops and postponements, one has to wonder if the season can be pulled off. One has to wonder if there will be a breaking point for the players or the league if the postponements continue to mount.
"I think that we're a ways away from that, based on all the knowledge and the information that I've gathered through the union and through MLB," Arrieta said. "MLB wants to do everything in their power to get this season completed and we do as well. We're committed to doing that.
"I want to see the postseason happen and not have to shut this thing down for good. That would be bad for a lot of reasons. The fans want to see baseball. We want to play. We're going to follow protocols and do everything we can to make sure that happens."
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