By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — With an eye on the playoffs, the Cubs and right-hander Jake Arrieta are heavily leaning toward him skipping his scheduled start Sunday in the team’s regular-season finale.
“I don’t believe so,” Arrieta said Friday. “We will clear that up today. We are probably going to do a sim game. This is the time of the year you don’t need bullpens or extended time off of the mound. This is just about October.”
The objective of everyone is to have Arrieta fully healthy when the Cubs open against the Nationals next Friday in the National League Division Series. Arrieta suffered a hamstring strain in early September, sat out several weeks and has made two starts since he returned, including an outing in which he went just three innings in a loss Tuesday night.
“That was a pretty significant injury for Jake,” manager Joe Maddon said Friday before the Cubs hosted the Reds. “After looking at this period to get him stronger, arm-wise he is fine. Everything is fine except his leg is not 100 percent. So we will wait and see.”
Arrieta will likely throw a simulated game against his own teammates in the coming days and work on strengthening his leg over the next week.
The Cubs haven’t announced their postseason rotation, but Arrieta is expected to start Game 3 or Game 4 in the NLDS, Maddon confirmed.
Arrieta labored through 67 pitches Tuesday, compensating for his right hamstring bothering him by utilizing a different approach at times. The key is for the Cubs to gain confidence in Arrieta’s hamstring while not pushing him too hard in a simulated game.
“He will have to exert himself a little bit to make sure it is well at some point,” Maddon said. “That is the tricky part of this. I do not have any solid answers for you. We will see how this all plays out. If it plays well, cool. If not, you have to make another plan.”
All five Cubs starters could potentially make the 25-man roster for the NLDS, Maddon said. That would mean right-hander John Lackey could serve as insurance in case Arrieta suffers a setback or has early trouble in a game.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.