Levine: Cubs’ Jake Arrieta Savoring Scene As He Prepares For Nationals

By Bruce Levine

CHICAGO (CBS) — A day before taking the ball for the Cubs in Game 4 of the National League Division Series, right-hander Jake Arrieta admitted Monday that this start will be more complex than usual.

In addition to working back from a grade-one hamstring strain that he suffered the first week of September, Arrieta is aware that Tuesday could mark his last start with the Cubs, as free agency awaits him come November.

“I am just trying to take everything in,” Arrieta said. “I have been trying to capture some mental images of Wrigley, the fan base and teammates. I want to remember as much as I can about these last couple of weeks, especially if it is my last time in this uniform.”

The expectation is that agent Scott Boras will be looking for a five- or six-year deal for the 31-year-old Arrieta ranging from $150 million to $175 million. The Cubs certainly would like Arrieta back in the fold, but it’s unclear how seriously they would engage in a bidding war. Arrieta — who has won more games than anyone in baseball across the last three seasons — is unlikely to give a hometown discount with so many teams in needs of an ace pitcher.

What’s top of mind for Arrieta now is taking care of business in Game 4 despite a gimpy right leg that caused him to be scratched in the regular-season finale in favor of extra rest. Arrieta hasn’t pitched since Sept. 26, when he lasted just three innings and 67 pitches in a loss at St. Louis.

“I have been able to throw a few really good side sessions,” Arrieta said.

“Timing is good. The stuff has been really good. So the arm strength has not been affected. If there is any effect, it is all positive. Just having given everything a breather, not throwing for a few days and obviously the hamstring has benefited from that as well.”

Arrieta made one start against the Nationals this season and was hit hard, taking a loss in going four innings and allowing six runs, five earned, on June 27.

“Obviously getting (Trea)Turner out at the top of the order is crucial,” Arrieta said. “He is the catalyst that gets their offense going. He has speed and is a quality hitter. If we do a good job of keeping him off of bases and make good pitches to the guys after him, that will be the key.”

Arrieta was unconcerned about not starting a game for the past two weeks.

“I don’t think there is a perceived negative,” Arrieta said. “This time of year, arm strength is usually at an all-time high. Two weeks off could pose a little bit of a problem, but like I said, I have had a few quality side sessions.”

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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