(670 The Score) It hasn’t taken long for veteran right-hander Jake Arrieta to seamlessly fit back in with the Cubs after a three-year hiatus with the Phillies.
After signing a one-year deal to rejoin the Cubs team that he had great success with from 2013-’17, Arrieta has been his usual self. He’s thrilled to be back with the Cubs and has adopted 25-year-old Adbert Alzolay as his student to help mentor this spring.
Arrieta, who turns 35 in March, is also focused on raising his game after his Philadelphia tenure didn’t go as planned. Arrieta posted a 4.36 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in 64 starts for the Phillies across the last thee years, when he also dealt with knee and elbow issues.
"The last three years were not up to my expectations,” Arrieta said. “I had to deal with a few physical setbacks. Ultimately, I did not perform up to my own expectations. I have a lot left in the tank and things I still want to accomplish in this game. I am excited it will be in this Cub uniform again.”
Arrieta has found comfort in being around old teammates, but there are differences too. He returns to a Cubs organization that has a more technologically advanced pitch lab infrastructure, which he plans to utilize.
"That interests me a lot,” Arrieta said. “The advanced analytics are extremely important. I still think baseball is about more effectively implementing those nuances into the game. I do think the foundation of pitching techniques has been strayed slightly with some of the numbers. But I have seen a shift from that back to the foundation of pitching. That is establishing down and away and changing speeds and then changing eye level after that. They do have a pitching lab here where they analyze things with biomechanics, which is very important.”
As he has returned to the Cubs, Arrieta brings with him plenty of knowledge about the business side of the game. He understands the pressure and uncertainty that first baseman Anthony Rizzo, third baseman Kris Bryant and shortstop Javier Baez will face as they’re in the final year of their contract. His advice for them is to just focus on performing in 2021, then the future will take care of itself.
"The first and foremost important thing is developing that team bond here in Chicago this year,” Arrieta said. “They need to perform up to the best of their abilities. If they can do that and stay on the field, they will get compensated very well for that. It is a kind of bittersweet experience. It's tough to take the Cub uniform off. I have been through that. They hopefully can focus on the here and now and what is most important -- their health and preparing for a full season with this organization. If things change along the road, we will deal with them when it comes. They are focused and prepared. I look forward to playing with them again.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.