When the Cubs acquired Jake Arrieta from the Orioles on July 12, 2013 he was nothing more than a lottery ticket. A year removed from being Baltimore’s opening day starter, Arrieta was sacrificed as part of the Orioles’ pursuit of a playoff berth.
Two years later, he’s the ace of the Cubs and a top contender for the National League Cy Young Award and basking in the glow of Sunday’s no-hitter against the Dodgers.
“From day one I knew that I could pitch like this my whole career. I did it in college, did it in the minor leagues and I did it in the big leagues at times,” Arrieta said Monday.“There was some adjustments in there mentally and physically that needed to be made and I knew once I was able to kind of get over that hump that things would eventually work themselves out.”
There were times when that didn’t look probable. His stuff in Baltimore was just as good as it’s been in Chicago, but he wasn’t executing his pitches. His raw talent would only frustrate Baltimore, and the Orioles dealt him, Pedro Strop and two international signing bonus slots to the Cubs for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger.
Now that deal looks like it could be one of the best in Cubs history, and one that’s keying the team’s push for the postseason.
“It means a lot,” Strop said. “It’s awesome because we both were struggling by the time we got traded. I don’t think anybody was expecting us to be the pitchers we are right now.”
But the Cubs and pitching coach Chris Bosio saw something.
On Sunday, Bosio recalled the report he gave president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer when Arrieta’s name came up. He said Arrieta could “both sides” a couple pitches but struggled with command.
That’s not true now.
“This guy’s put in a lot of hard work, man. A lot of hard work,” Bosio said Sunday. “And knowing Jake, he’s going to enjoy this (Sunday). There’s going to be I’m sure a big-time party in Chicago and some celebrations going on. But knowing him in Day 2, he’s going to get organized and ready for his side and start preparing for his next start – remembering this and enjoying it, but preparing for his next start.”
He’ll certainly do that with Bosio’s help. The two have clicked, with Arrieta saying “(Bosio’s) been a huge role-player for what I’ve been able to do.”
“The open line of communication is something we both value,” Arrieta said. “It’s been an incredible process that we’ve developed. We’re going to stick with it.”
It would be odd if they didn’t. Arrieta’s big night came at a perfect time for him and the Cubs. They were on national television at Dodger Stadium, capping a tough trip with a night to remember… and those onesies.
“We’re very fortunate the timing all came together at that point but it did,” manager Joe Maddon said. “For an esprit de corps moment, it’s hard to top that.”
When Arrieta tries again, he’ll do it coming off a no-hitter and with a bigger national profile.
Not that people should have been ignorant to what Arrieta’s become since he arrived in Epstein’s best Cubs deal.
“Well I feel like, if you don’t know about me by now you better ask somebody,” Arrieta said. “I’ve been doing it for a while. I think I can still get better, as most of the best in the game feel.”
Contributing: Gordon Wittenmyer