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Jake Arrieta eager to keep plugging

Updated: July 7, 2014 11:33PM



CINCINNATI — If the Cubs wonder where they will find front-line pitching after trading their two best pitchers, Jake Arrieta has a thought:

“I intend to pitch like an ace regardless of the situation,” said the Cubs starter who has pitched well enough since returning from an early-season injury to arguably qualify as an All-Star snub.

“I used to say that a lot when I was younger and I got a lot of [heat] for it, but I truly feel in my heart that’s who I am and what I’m capable of being for quite some time.”

Arrieta always had the stuff to do what he’s shown in 12 starts this year (5-1, 1.78 ERA). But he still has to prove it will stick after a roller-coaster track record with the Baltimore Orioles before being acquired a year ago.

“I would love to do that here in Chicago for the next five or six years, or whatever that might be,” he said.

If anything, Arrieta might be the most promising example of what the rest of the season is about inside a Cubs clubhouse that suddenly has become baseball’s great land of opportunity.

While the front office works the phones the rest of the month on trades that could create playoff opportunity for a few more guys, three months of auditions for 2015 roster spots and roles will begin now that Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel are with the Oakland Athletics.

Veteran Japanese left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada — who had his first two years in the United States derailed by Tommy John surgery — is scheduled to make his major-league debut for the Cubs during the doubleheader Tuesday against the Cincinnati Reds. He’ll be sent back to Class AAA Iowa after the game, but he’ll stay on the radar for a return.

Dallas Beeler, who made his ­debut June 28 in a similar one-day doubleheader promotion, and Class AAA right-hander Kyle Hendricks are scheduled for starts Wednesday and Thursday, barring another rainout in Cincinnati.

And right-hander Dan Straily, who was acquired in the deal with the A’s, could join the rotation soon after the All-Star break.

“That’s pretty much what it’s all about right now,” said Arrieta, who saw the same kind of auditioning before the Orioles turned a corner in 2012.

“We’ve kind of set the table for what the remainder of this year is potentially going to look like with the guys coming up to help bolster and help build the rotation.”

One or two of the high-end hitting prospects in the system could debut by the end of the season, too, leading toward a winter in which the Cubs are expected to be more active than they have been since this regime took over in the fall of 2011.

“It’s a time of opportunity for a bunch of guys to break into this level and show what they can do,” Arrieta said.

Or keep showing it. And try to claim a bigger role.

“Jake just has to be Jake,” manager Rick Renteria said. “As a consequence of guys leaving, a lot of focus will probably be placed on him. But hopefully that doesn’t affect him. As long as continues to do what he’s been doing, his performance obviously speaks for itself.”

Nobody in the organization has talked to Arrieta about occasional trade rumors that include his name, but as a player who doesn’t reach arbitration until this winter and is pitching effectively for a pitching-thin team, nobody has to.

“I expect to be here. I expect to be here for a long time,” he said. “I’ve always loved the city. I was a fan of the Cubs as a kid. So this is where I want to be. There’s no question about that.”

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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