CINCINNATI — His changeup is becoming more and more dependable. His cutter still isn’t where it needs to be, but he’s working on it. His velocity may be creeping up a tick here and there.
Maybe Jake Arrieta will turn out to be a decent starting pitcher after all.
Arrieta (8-6) was the best version of himself Sunday in the Cubs’ 6-2 victory over the Reds, allowing one hit in seven scoreless innings. It was only the fourth time in 17 starts this season he completed seven innings and the first time in seven weeks he didn’t allow a run.
“My progress with the changeup is coming along real nice,” he said. “I’m getting more comfortable with it. It’s just allowing me to open up some more doors and be able to do some different things to right-handers as well as lefties. It’s a big pitch for me.”
About that velocity being a seasonlong issue for Arrieta? Manager Joe Maddon isn’t concerned.
“If he keeps pitching with that command,” Maddon said, “the confidence is going to come up and the velocity you’re going to see tick up also.”
Arrieta, who likely has no shot at winning the Cy Young — the award he won in 2015 — hasn’t followed up his first All-Star honor, in 2016, with a season to write home about. But that’s all beside the point, Arrieta said.
“Getting ourselves back at the top of the division should be everybody’s primary goal at this point in time.”
Catcher Victor Caratini, called up from Class AAA Iowa to replace Miguel Montero after the recent controversy between Montero and the team, was nervous Friday when he made his first major-league start on his third day in the big leagues.
But at least he was in his customary spot behind the plate. Maddon didn’t even wait until
Day 3 to stick Caratini in the outfield for a brief appearance — his first time in the outfield.
“Kris Bryant gave me a glove,” the 23-year-old Puerto Rican said through an interpreter.
The Cubs went from having veterans Montero and David Ross last season to being in the hands of 24-year-old Willson Contreras and Caratini. It’s definitely a different dynamic, though, with Contreras leading the role in that position.
“Since spring training, he’s been helping me a lot, teaching me a few things, making me comfortable,” Caratini said. “I’m going to keep listening, keep learning.”
Caratini offers some defensive versatility — always a plus with Maddon — but it’s his swing the manager really likes.
“I like it, too,” Caratini said with a broad smile.
The Cubs have flip-flopped starting pitchers Jon Lester and John Lackey for the upcoming series against the Rays at Wrigley Field. Lester will pitch Tuesday, followed by Lackey the next day. That’ll give Lester one final start before the All-Star break.
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