Pitchers and catchers have just reported to Spring Training for the Chicago Cubs and the team has already received some bad news. It was reported by Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune on Thursday that Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta had arrived at camp with right shoulder tightness. While he’s hopeful he will be ready for the start of the regular season, any setbacks in his recovery could set back himself and the rotation as a whole.
The former Baltimore Oriole was acquired last season in a trade that also landed the Cubs reliever Pedro Strop in exchange for pitcher Scott Feldman. Before the trade, Arrieta had struggled in Baltimore while posting a lackluster 7.23 ERA. However, after moving to the Windy City, he majorly improved and recorded a solid 3.66 ERA over nine starts with the Cubs. Based on that performance, it was the hope of the organization that he could revive his career in Chicago.
Obviously this one injury doesn’t end that hope, but it certainly puts it on hold. It was expected that Arrieta would join Jason Hammel as the final players in the starting rotation. With this injury, it’s possible someone else could claim that final spot before Arrieta gets back. That means a potential drop off in performance at the major league level, and more importantly, it means that Arrieta’s development will be put on hold.
In the meantime, players that could compete for the final spot in the rotation include former Pittsburgh Pirate James McDonald and lefty Chris Rusin. In 2012, McDonald had a stellar first half, but in the year and a half since, he’s been underwhelming. Hoping that he could regain his early 2012 form, the Cubs signed him this offseason. Rusin, on the other hand, is homegrown talent that has pitched for the Cubs before. In 2013, Rusin posted a 3.93 ERA in 13 starts and had several solid starts that made the Cubs believe he could have a future spot in the rotation.
Exactly how much time Arrieta misses due to his injury will determine how much it will hurt the team and himself, but for now, the Cubs have to look at some other options for the rotation. It’s very possible that this injury could be a footnote on a solid season for Arrieta as he continues to realize his potential, or it could be another setback for a player yet to pitch to his full ability.