Although no one believes Jake Arrieta’s thumb blister is a serious, long-term issue, the Cubs want to ensure it doesn’t become one. So, even as Arrieta is confident it “won’t be a problem” and things are already “business as usual,” Joe Maddon is taking a more cautious tone (Cubs.com, Tribune, ESPN).
Maddon would like to see Arrieta out there for Opening Day, and he’s not ruling it out, but he wants to take a long view of the season, and be cautious with blisters so that it doesn’t become a recurrent problem. In a day or two, the Cubs will make a decision.
You have to remember, the other issue here is that Arrieta threw just 34 pitches in his last outing, so there is still some stretching out that needs to take place before he can realistically go 80 to 90 pitches in a big league game. The Cubs should have a solid, versatile bullpen and everything, but no one wants to see them taxed right out of the gate by the guy who is otherwise expected to save them.
Obviously you’d do this DL move primarily to protect Arrieta, but it would also allow the Cubs to carry an extra player for those first four games, and, with a tricky back of the roster situation developing with Neil Ramirez, Matt Szczur, Tommy La Stella, and Munenori Kawasaki, having Arrieta on the DL for those four games would buy the team a little more time on the roster decision. (Again: that’s not the reason you’d do it. It’s just a side benefit.)
UPDATE: Good news on this front, as Arrieta is set to throw on the side tomorrow, and start against the A’s on Tuesday, as scheduled (Muskat, Gonzales). Obviously we’ll still want to see that he feels (and commands) fine on Sunday and Tuesday, but there’s no way he’d be throwing on the side tomorrow if the blisters didn’t seem already to be under control completely. Worry status was already pretty low on this one, but it just ticked even lower.