Arrieta sharp in first Cactus League start for Cubs

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta throws during the first inning of Sunday's spring training game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Scottsdale, Ariz.

    Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta throws during the first inning of Sunday's spring training game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Scottsdale, Ariz. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 3/7/2021 6:29 PM

Looking to show he can be the same dominating pitcher he was the first time around, Jake Arrieta made his first Cactus League start for the Cubs Sunday and took a positive first step.

In a 5-4 loss to the Diamondbacks, Arrieta gave up a leadoff single to Josh Rojas and walked the next hitter, Ketal Marte.

 

After that, the 2015 Cy Young Award winner retired the next three hitters he faced, came back and pitched a scoreless second inning and called it a day.

"I was looking forward to my first outing for a while," Arrieta told reporters in Scottsdale, Ariz., after throwing 30 pitches. "Getting out there today in that environment, on the road and against another team, starting off with two guys on base, no outs and being able to get the job done, these are all situations that are going to arise during the season. It's nice to get them out of the way."

Arrieta, who celebrated his 35th birthday Saturday, pitched for the Cubs from 2013-17 and was 68-31 with 6 complete games, 5 shutouts, 2 no-hitters and a 2.73 ERA.

In postseason play, he was equally effective at 5-3, 3.08 ERA.

After going 22-23 with a 4.36 ERA and battling injuries over the last three seasons with the Phillies, the right-hander returned to Cubs Feb. 17 on a one-year, $4 million contract. There is a $10 million option for 2022 with a $2 million buyout.

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"Getting back to guys that know him and what he did well," Cubs manager David Ross said of Arrieta. "The flip side of that, it's difficult to go to a new organization (Philadelphia) with a big contract and expectations and the Cy Young and being the leader and then trying to live up to that and making sure you stay true to yourself.

"Guys that come in here that have had success, you kind of don't want to mess with them. You kind of just leave them alone and let them do their thing. Coming back here, I think that's the focus."

In Sunday's loss to Arizona, Adbert Alzolay relieved Arrieta and took the loss after allowing 5 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks in 1⅓ innings.

Willson Contreras hit a solo home run in the first and Anthony Rizzo followed with a 2-run shot in the third inning.

Strop violates COVID-19 rules:

Back with the Cubs on a minor-league contract this spring, relief pitcher Pedro Strop is reportedly being held out of camp after breaking COVID-19 protocols.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Strop was pictured eating indoors with players from the Cleveland Indians, including Franmil Reyes.

It is unknown when Strop will rejoin the Cubs.

"We've got to stay diligent," manager David Ross told reporters. "There is outdoor dining. MLB I think let that loose on March 3. It is a perk to spring training, out here with all the great restaurants, but you just can't go in. You can't eat inside.

"The numbers are real about how this thing spreads indoors. That's why we're doing all these outdoor activities and trying to do as much as much as we can outdoors because of those numbers."

Strop has not pitched in a Cactus League game this spring. The 35-year-old righty was with the Cubs from 2013-19 and he appeared in 4 games with the Reds last season.

Underwood traded:

The Cubs acquired minor-league first baseman Shendrik Apostel from the Pirates Sunday for relief pitcher Duane Underwood Jr.

The 20-year-old Apostel played 68 games in the Dominican Summer League in 2018-19 and hit .252 with 11 home runs and 45 RBI.

Designated for assignment on March 2, Underwood was 1-1 with a 5.20 ERA in 30 games for the Cubs from 2018-20.

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