Jake Arrieta and Joe Maddon on the Pitcher's Blister Issue

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Jake Arrieta and Joe Maddon on the Pitcher’s Blister Issue

Chicago Cubs

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If you were able to resist (or were somehow unable to be) watching last night’s Spring Training matchup between the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants, you may have spared yourself some unneeded anxiety.

When Madison Bumgarner and Jake Arrieta took the mound for two opposing NL teams (that very much expect to be competitive in 2016) on ESPN last night, we all thought we were in for some worry-free, exhibition, Spring Training fun.

Unfortunately the fun ended quite quickly for Cubs fans, as Jake Arrieta, the 2015 NL Cy Young winner, left the game before finishing the first inning. By the time Arrieta was lifted, he’d recorded just one out, while giving up five earned runs on four hits, two walks and no strikeouts. But, to be quite clear, it was not the results of his outing (which aren’t as important for a guy like Arrieta in the Spring as health and velocity are), it was how he looked in the process.

After throwing 34 pitches, it was obvious that something was off; and I don’t just mean in the, “he doesn’t have it today,” sense. Arrieta was leaving pitches well up in the zone, which were getting crushed, walking two batters (including one that forced in a run) and let go of a wild pitch. His command, it seemed, had completely escaped him.

To check in on his ace – and presumably slow the game down – Joe Maddon went out to the mound and had a quick meeting with Arrieta … who then promptly walked the very next batter, and was taken out of the game.

Of course, the entire experience sent Cubs fans into a panic due to Arrieta’s relative importance to this team and upcoming season. But, as I’m sure you know now, we learned that Arrieta was simply dealing with a blister on his right thumb and there was nothing more serious (or terrifying) operating behind the scenes. He was back in the dugout quick enough, and told Buster Olney that it’s something he’s dealt with before, and isn’t concerned.


But, if you’d like some more encouragement, why not get it from the man, himself:

So, then, it sounds like Arrieta has been dealing with a slight, reoccurring blister on his right thumb throughout the Spring, and before yesterday’s game. Apparently, it felt especially tender before his start, so Arrieta covered it in super glue to prevent it from reopening. And while the super glue may have helped prevent the blister from opening, it also prevented Arrieta from applying enough pressure to the ball, and keeping a strong enough grip, to control his pitches effectively.

If that was indeed the case, this all becomes entirely less troubling. Blisters are not something that has derailed Arrieta’s performance throughout his career, and he believes that the frequency of their appearance should diminish once he leaves the dry climate of Arizona.

For his part, Arrieta believes that he’ll be ready for his side/bullpen session tomorrow, but Joe Maddon thinks he should probably push it back, a day or two:

Although Maddon clearly doesn’t not seem overly concerned, you can tell that he’s well aware of the negative impact it had on Arrieta’s game. Patience seems to be the word he’s looking for in regards to Arrieta and how he handles the next couple of days.

At the Chicago Tribune you can hear more from Jake Arrieta here, and more from Joe Maddon here, but they essentially reiterate what they’ve said, above: Arrieta isn’t concerned at all, and Maddon thinks it’ll be fine, but believes that Arrieta should take a beat, before getting back out there.

Although I’m sure Arrieta knows his body well, he said himself that he hasn’t had much experience with blisters in the past, whereas Maddon has had many players deal with the nuisance. So, in that regard, taking it slow is probably the best move, even if it means pushing everything back by a little bit. The season is long.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami