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Cubs righty Jake Arrieta optimistic he’ll be ready at start of season

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrietpitches against PhiladelphiPhillies during first inning baseball game Sunday Sept. 1 2013 Chicago. (AP Photo/Andrew

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies during the first inning of a baseball game on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles)

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Updated: March 17, 2014 11:48AM



MESA, Ariz. — One day after Cubs officials said they expect pitcher Jake Arrieta’s shoulder injury to keep him from starting the season on time, the promising young starter disputed that notion.

“I don’t think Opening Day is a far stretch,” he said Friday, “but we’ll see as we go in spring training. That’s just kind of where they’ve set it, to be cautious. We don’t want to set a date and try to get there before we’re ready. I’m confident that I’ll be ready.”

Arrieta, projected to fill a back-end spot in the rotation, suffered “tightness” in his shoulder while throwing during a pre-spring workout about two weeks ago, he said.

Since then, the pain has gone away, and he’s confident the injury isn’t serious.

“I played catch the last few days, and I feel good with where I’m at,” said Arrieta, who was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles in a trade last July. “I think we’ll have a much better understanding [of a timeline] as we progress. The main thing right now is to be cautious, to make sure I’m around for the long haul rather than try to rush things and progress a little too quickly and maybe have a setback at some point.”

Arrieta, who started Opening Day for the Orioles in 2012, said he’s throwing without limitations and is concerned only with building strength. If he can’t open the season, the Cubs say they have options in lefty Chris Rusin and righty swingman Carlos Villanueva, who will be stretched out as a starter this spring in case he’s needed.

Flip side

Newly signed starter Jason Hammel has no illusions about the likelihood of becoming the next Paul Maholm or Scott Feldman — buy-low upside guys the Cubs flipped at the trading deadline the last two years.

Hammel said he talked to former Orioles teammate Feldman — who was traded to Baltimore last July — about going to the Cubs as a free agent during the offseason. And Feldman encouraged the Chicago experience.

When asked about being this year’s flip guy, Hammel smiled and said he expected the question.

“But I’m not even thinking about that,” said Hammel, who’s coming off a 7-8, 4.97 season that began with an Opening Day start and included a late-season forearm injury. “The offseason’s for the business side of baseball. Now it’s time to go win ballgames. I can speak for every ballplayer; they want to stay in one place for a long time. [I’ll] just go out and do my job and pitch well, and let the cards fall where they may.”

Open tryouts

Manager Rick Renteria wouldn’t address how many openings he has on his roster going into the spring, even though it’s obvious at least 20 players are locked in, barring injury.

“As the spring progresses,” he said, “we’ll see what the needs are.”

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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