Arrieta ready to relive glory days with Cubs

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Back with the Chicago Cubs, Jake Arrieta is ready to prove he still has the stuff that earned him a Cy Young Award in 2015.

    Back with the Chicago Cubs, Jake Arrieta is ready to prove he still has the stuff that earned him a Cy Young Award in 2015. AP File Photo/Aug. 2017

 
 
Updated 2/20/2021 6:51 PM

Jake Arrieta doesn't see his return to the Cubs as feel-good story or a chance to thank the fans for a great run from 2015-17.

As training camp begins in Mesa, Ariz., Arrieta and manager David Ross have been talking about a return to his old form, staying beyond this season and bringing some of the Cubs' younger pitchers along with him.

 

"I have a lot in the tank," Arrieta said Saturday on a Zoom call with reporters. "I have a lot to still accomplish in this game and I'm excited it's going to happen in this Cub uniform again."

Arrieta, 34, won the Cy Young Award in 2015, the World Series in '16, then left the Cubs after the '17 season. The past three years in Philadelphia weren't terrible, but they weren't at the same level, either. Arrieta went 22-23 with a 4.36 ERA with the Phillies.

Arrieta listed some of the problems he faced after leaving Chicago. They including a meniscus cartilage tear that hampered him during the 2018 season, then needing bone spurs removed from his elbow after the 2019 campaign. He said the injuries caused some problems with his mechanics.

"My arm slot was not where it needed to be," he said. "It wasn't as effective. I was more on the side of the baseball, my off-speed didn't necessarily have the depth or the late life that I was accustomed to. And that's what we're working on currently to get back to.

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"The past couple mound sessions that I've had here have been really good. There's eyes on me that have seen me in the past, that have seen me at my best."

That includes Ross, who caught one of Arrieta's two no-hitters with the Cubs. Arrieta said he stayed in touch and played a round of golf with Ross during the winter, knowing a return to his old home was possible.

"Jake is still a top of the rotation pitcher," Ross said. "Sometimes getting back to familiar coaching, familiar places can really elevate your game. I think he's had some time to really analyze -- and we have too -- what he's done well, where his success and failures may have come from.

"Do I think he's the Cy Young-type pitcher I saw in '15 and '16? I would say right now, no. But does he have a chance to get back to a version of that? Absolutely. I know Jake feels like he can get back to that form."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Another potential benefit of having Arrieta back is as a mentor to the team's younger pitchers. Kyle Hendricks has credited Arrieta with helping his career. Early in training camp, Arrieta has found a new best friend in Adbert Alzolay.

"Jake threw his pen (Friday), then sat around and watched Adbert's pen," Ross said. "What veterans do that? I think that's the kind of teammate Jake was when I was here."

Arrieta said he and Alzolay have played catch every day and talked nonstop about pitching. So the relationship is already off to a good start.

"Adbert is going to be really, really good," Arrieta said. "His stuff is extremely impressive. He's focused, he asks a lot of questions and you can tell he loves the game. He loves to pitch. He doesn't love to hit so much, so we've got to work on that a little bit."

From Arrieta's perspective, he looks around the locker room at Hendricks, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez and Willson Contreras, and see a group capable of going to the World Series. Arrieta said Contreras hugged him so hard when they met up Saturday, he almost hurt him.

"This is where I wanted to be," Arrieta said. "The past few days here, it just feels right. It feels like yesterday. The last three years have gone by pretty quickly. I'm just really excited to be with this group again."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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