Jake Arrieta has not missed a start this season, but he has missed some velocity and some command.
After an early departure from his last start, when his command abruptly left him, we learned that Arrieta was dealing with a cut on his thumb, and the friction build up created just enough discomfort to disrupt his feel (and thus his command).
According to Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio, however, the thumb issue actually goes all the way back to Spring Training, when it started as a blister problem (ESPN, CSN). Arrieta’s feel has been impacted ever since, and Bosio says “it was just a lingering thing that never went away, and it’s progressively gotten worse.” You’ll want to read the two pieces for the full context on what Arrieta’s dealt with.
In the ESPN article, there’s even a suggestion from Bosio that if the Cubs had had more flexibility in the rotation recently, it may have been a disabled list situation for Arrieta.
Bosio adds that there’s a compounding factor here, as Arrieta cannot throw regularly between starts because the trainers want the cut to heal, but then that pushes Arrieta out of rhythm when he tries to start.
This is a lot to take in and consider.
With a guy like Arrieta – heck, with most ballplayers – you might not normally hear about a minor physical issue that could be throwing him off just a bit, if he wanted to try to work through it. In that way, I could find this all believable. To me, none of this reads like excuse-making – more like a note about something we didn’t know Arrieta had been dealing with for as long as he has, and about how it has been impacting him.
So where do things stand? Hopefully Arrieta can get through a start without the cut becoming agitated, and the recovery can take a step forward before his next start.
Arrieta takes the mound tonight for the Cubs, who could have used Thursday’s off-day to give Arrieta an extra day by starting John Lackey tonight instead on regular rest. Obviously that’s not necessarily a desirable game situation, as Lackey is dealing with his own performance issues, but maybe it would have helped get Arrieta over the hump. The Cubs did not deem that an appropriate move, which perhaps says something about their comfort level with where things stand with Arrieta’s thumb? Or about their level of starter-related desperation? Both?
Either way, we’ll all be watching Arrieta closely tonight.