The Cubs had a rare Spring Training off-day yesterday, but, although they weren’t playing a game, there was plenty going on in Mesa. Most importantly, the Cubs’ front two starters, Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, each threw.
Lester, who was scratched from his Saturday start with dead arm, threw his normal bullpen session yesterday, and all went well (Tribune, CSN, Carrie Muskat). Lester threw 50 pitches, and still isn’t feeling any kind of discomfort. He’s on schedule to start on Thursday, and in theory on schedule to open the season for the Cubs in the Sunday Night Game on April 5. The way Lester talks about things, he’s still just building up arm strength as he usually is this time of year.
If Lester throws normally on Thursday, any reason for concern will recede further. I doubt Cubs fans will be able to shake this fully from their minds until and unless Lester has a few normal, quality regular season starts, but there’s plenty of reason for cautious optimism at this point.
Jake Arrieta also threw yesterday, and he actually pitched in a minor league intrasquad game so that he could stay on his normal schedule. BN’er Spriggs (Dale) was there watching the start, and shared some of his notes (with a bonus Duane Underwood note), which I thought you’d enjoy:
A few notes on Jake Arrieta’s session today (3/23) against minor league hitters. Jake looked sharp today keeping the minor leaguers off balance early on. By my count, Jake threw 90 pitches, going 6 strong innings. He gave up a couple runs on an error by the SS Ryan Dent, a walk, a wild pitch, and a two run double to the base of the CF wall off the bat of Dustin Geiger. My unofficial count had him with 7 Ks and 1 BB and 3 hits. The other two hits were singles by Jacob Hannemann and Daniel Lockhart. The hitters Arrieta faced (in order) were:
Hanneman, Lockhart, McKinney, Candelario, Carhart, Caratin, Chen, Geiger, Penalver, Saunders, Darvill, Jeffrey Baez, Hanneman, Lockhart, McKinney, Candelario, ???, Chen, Geiger, Carhart, Caratini, Penalver, Saunders.
As you can see, they did not follow a normal batting order and two of the innings went for 4 outs, while another had only 2. So, I guess Jake actually pitched 6 1/3.
The surprise of the day for me was that Duane Underwood started and went 3 innings for the other minor league team. He was throwing noticeably harder than Jake, but had a little trouble locating his breaking stuff. Underwood gave up 2 runs (1 earned) in the second inning. The big hit was an RBI double by Silva. He struck out 3 and walked 1 by my counts. He was impressive as usual.