Jake Arrieta off to strong start in second stint with Cubs

Some of Arrieta’s improvement this season is because he’s fully healthy again, David Ross said, and some is because he has grown into the kind of pitcher who can do more with less velocity.

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Jake Arrieta throws a pitch during the third inning against the Brewers on Sunday at Wrigley Field.

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Jake Arrieta’s second stay in Chicago has gotten off to a good start, even better than fans and the Cubs might have expected.

Through his first four starts ahead of Sunday’s outing against the Brewers, Arrieta had a 2.86 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 22 innings. He was known for his power arm during his first go-round with the Cubs, but manager David Ross said he’s seeing an evolution in Arrieta’s approach in 2021.

“The evolution of most starting pitchers, it’s power and stuff in the zone and learning to pitch with that stuff,” Ross said. “As the stuff may tick down, you start to get to the corners and you start to manipulate the ball.”

When Arrieta was at his best during the 2015-16 seasons with the Cubs, he averaged in the mid- to upper-90s with his fastball and sinker. While with the Phillies for the last three seasons, that dropped to around 92-93. Some of the improvement in Arrieta this season is because he’s fully healthy again, Ross said, and some is because he’s grown into the kind of pitcher who can do more with less velocity.

“Now maybe the stuff’s not quite 97, but it’s still really good stuff,” Ross said. “He’s on the corners a little bit more and still has a ton of movement and can manipulate the ball really well in the zone as well as to the corners.”

Arrieta worked out of a jam in the first inning Sunday. After loading the bases with no outs and allowing a run on a walk, he retired Keston Hiura (pop-up), Billy McKinney (strikeout) and Jackie Bradley Jr. (groundout into the shift).

He settled in from there, retiring 15 consecutive Brewers on 59 pitches before walking Omar Narvaez to lead off the sixth inning. He then struck out the side to keep the Cubs within a run. Arrieta pitched five scoreless innings after the first, dropping his ERA for the season to 2.57.

Joc progressing

Outfielder Joc Pederson went on the injured list Thursday with left wrist tendinitis. On Sunday, Ross said his recovery is on track so far.

“Some really good progress in the last two days that feels like this irritation is getting out of there,” Ross said.

Pederson will stay in South Bend, Indiana, to begin taking swings this week, possibly on Tuesday. The Cubs start a road trip to Atlanta and Cincinnati on Monday.

“If the batting practice goes well and the next day there’s no residual effects from that, then we’ll continue to push him forward,” Ross said. “That stuff really has a lot to do with how he feels and how he bounces back.”

If all goes well, Ross said that Pederson could be taking live batting practice by next weekend.

Tepera suspension reduced

The Cubs announced that reliever Ryan Tepera’s suspension was reduced from three games to two. He served the first game Sunday and will be eligible to return Tuesday in Atlanta. Tepera was suspended for throwing behind Brewers pitcher Brandon Woodruff during the series in Milwaukee this month.

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