MESA, Ariz. – Jake Arrieta just got done making a bunch of Colorado Rockies AAA players look for five innings like he made most of the National League look in the second half last year.
He gave up two hits, one an infield roller, and struck out four in five scoreless. Now he has two more spring starts before opening for the Cubs April 4 in Anaheim.
So when a reporter started to ask the league’s reigning Cy Young winner about whether he can get locked in again like he was for that historic 20-start stretch to finish the year (0.86 ERA), he didn’t let the guy finish the question.
“I am locked in like that,” he said flatly. “Yeah, I’m there. I’m right there.
“I mean, it’s a record in all of baseball, ever,” he said of that finish. “To say I’m going to have those numbers again probably not realistic. But they’re going to be good. I know that.”
Never mind the matter-of-fact confidence that history suggests is well founded. The most impressive thing about Arrieta’s day in the minor-league shadows is that he was admittedly working at about 70-80 percent effort – with a easy fastball in the low 90s and a breaking ball for strikes whenever he chose.
“I mean, his 70 percent today was outstanding,” catcher Miguel Montero said. “I know it was minor-league guys hitting, but I don’t think even the big leaguers would have been able to do much with him either. His stuff was pretty sharp.”
The most important player on the roster when it comes to this team’s October hopes is already locked in – “Yeah, I’m right there,” he said.
“I could have started Opening Day today,” he added. “I threw 60 pitches with very little effort. Could have easily gone 20 or 30 more.
“I’m just trying to fine tune some things. But I’m pretty close.”