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Arrieta power? Cubs ace wants to join Bumgarner in Home Run Derby

Jake Arrieta connects on the longest home run for a pitcher this season (April 10 in Arizona).

 

ATLANTA – Jake Arrieta pitched seven strong innings against the Braves on Saturday to win his first start since his only loss in nearly a year.

But it wasn’t until he was asked about his hitting, and about Madison Bumgarner’s effort to crash the All-Star Home Run Derby that Arrieta seemed to get fired up.

“If he’s in it, I need to be in it,” said Arrieta, throwing down the gauntlet on a day he hit a pair of singles and scored a run during the Cubs’ 8-2 victory over the woebegone Braves. “He can hit the ball a long way, but I can, too.”

Bumgarner, the Giants ace, has lobbied for the past week to get in the homer derby. He has more homers in his career (13) than any other active pitcher, including a 424-foot shot that’s the second-longest by a pitcher this year.

The longest was Arrieta’s 442-footer in Arizona in April.

Arrieta seems at least as serious as Bumgarner about getting his Derby shot.

“I honestly think that would be probably the most adrenaline that I would ever have,” said the man who has pitched a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium in August and another in Cincinnati in April. “Hitting in a home run derby with no cage in front of 40,000 people – I don’t know how those guys do it. I think it would be mentally and physically draining, but a really fun experience.”

Home runs were the theme for the Cubs on Saturday long before the postgame conversation with Arrieta.

Four Cubs homered Saturday, including the two who were in last year’s Home Run Derby: Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

Jason Heyward also hit one in the first, and Montero put the Cubs ahead 5-0 with a three-run shot in the fourth.

But it was Arrieta – the guy who made pitching history over the past year – doing all the big talking about his hope to be part of home run history.

Why not? The guy has a higher average (.276) than Rizzo (.257), a higher on-base percentage (.344) than Addison Russell (.314) and a higher slugging percentage (.414) than either Montero (.350) or Heyward (.333).

In fact, the guy known for all those pitching streaks has a longer current hitting streak (two) than winning streak (one).

Arrieta (10-1), who rebounded from a five-inning loss Sunday to allow just four hits in seven innings against the Braves, might want to consider preserving his strength for what might be a chance to start the All-Star game the day after the Derby.

Assuming the Cubs would even let him participate in the homer contest – assuming he would ever merit an invitation in the first place (Giants manager Bruce Bochy already has said they would try to keep Bumgarner out of it because of injury risk).

Maybe a pitchers-only event? Nine pitchers this season have hit homers, including Bumgarner and the Mets’ Noah Sundergaard with two each.

Burly, awkward Bartolo Colon of the Mets hit the only one of his career this year, and then set what’s believed to be a record for slowest home run trot. The potential comedy factor alone should make him a candidate.

“There’s several pitchers around the league who can do it,” said Arrieta, who said he would welcome a pitchers hitting derby — sans comedy.

Again, he takes his hitting as seriously as he takes any other part of his game.

“It would be interesting. It would add a different dynamic to the All-Star game,” he said. “Maybe shorten the pitchers home run derby a little bit, so it doesn’t drag out for so long.”

Most important: “I’d love to hit in it, too.”