By Bruce Levine-
MESA, Ariz/ (CBS) — Watching Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta go about his work day, you get the sense of a man who’s driving himself beyond normal limits. Arrieta has rediscovered the confidence and ability that he first realized as a young pitcher in the Baltimore organization.READ MORE: Oak Park And River Forest High School Ban On Activities Due To COVID Outbreak Sparks Outrage
After battling minor injuries and inconsistent performances over his first seven professional seasons, the 29-year-old Arrieta had a breakout 2014 campaign, winning 10 games, posting a 2.53 ERA and taking no-hit games into the seventh inning on three different occasions.
“I told Jake that he had to see what we all have seen in him,” pitching coach Chris Bosio said. “He had to believe he was the best pitcher in the league and also step up to help be a leader.”
Arrieta did just that, recording a WHIP under 1.00 and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.07. At Wrigley Field, Arrieta was almost unbeatable, posting a 6-1 record and a 1.46 ERA at the friendly confines.
“Right now I am going through the day-to-day workload of spring training,” Arrieta said. “I am gaining that comfort zone. I had a few bumps in the road during my first outing. This is what I expect to see early on in the process. I will just try to refine some things in the next one and make things a little more crisp. What does that mean? Just make sure my command, especially early in counts, is where I want it to be.”READ MORE: My Block, My Hood, My City Lights Up South Side By Decorating Homes For The Holidays
Arrieta will make his second spring start Friday evening in Las Vegas. Part of his off eason workload included a dedicated conditioning schedule with a shoulder program. This was done in order to keep him on the mound all season.
Arrieta still must prove to himself and others that he’s a 33-start, 200-inning pitcher. His 156 2/3 innings last season were a career-high.
“I have learned a lot about myself almost every year,” Arrieta said. “About last year, I learned there is even more room for improvement, every season and every time out on the mound. This realization is derived from wanting to be the best that I can be. That thought process includes being the best for my team, for myself and for the city of Chicago. All those things drive me to get the very most I can out of my ability.”
The Cubs’ addition to the lefty ace Jon Lester has already had a significant impact on Arrieta as well.
“He is very precise in his preparation,” Arrieta said of Lester. “Jon is very detail-orientated, similar to the way I feel I am. Watching him with the precision and attention he pays to everything is motivating for all of us. He is an artist. He really is. It is an art the way he approaches his craft and his teammates. To see him as an opponent was interesting. To see it every day as a teammate is very special.”MORE NEWS: Reopened Markets, Stores Packed With Shoppers Ready To Celebrate Holidays
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.