Why Ross says Arrieta can return to version of Cy Young past originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Jake Arrieta’s return to the North Side may have brought forth fond memories for Cubs fans during an offseason of roster subtractions, but the team is looking for the right-hander to provide more than nostalgia in 2021.
“Jake is still a top of the rotation type pitcher,” Cubs manager David Ross told reporters over Zoom on Friday.
Arrieta spent the 2013-17 seasons with the Cubs, putting together an incredible three-year run from 2015-17 in which he won a Cy Young Award. He came up big in the postseason on numerous occasions, from the 2015 NL Wild Card Game to the 2016 World Series, also pushing the Cubs to victory in Game 4 of the 2017 NLCS — their most recent playoff win.
Arrieta left in free agency after the 2017 season and had three up-and-down years with the Phillies. He made just 24 starts in 2019, missing the final two months due to a bone spur in his elbow. A hamstring strain sidelined him for the final two weeks of 2020 following a solid three-start stretch in September.
Could a return to a familiar situation benefit the soon-to-be 35-year-old?
“I know he hasn’t had the years he's wanted,” Ross said of the right-hander's time in Philadelphia, “but sometimes getting back to familiar coaching, familiar places can really elevate your game.
“I think he's had some time to really analyze — and we have too — what he's done well, where his success and failures may have come from. I've definitely seen a willingness from him to make some adjustments in his game.”
The Cubs know Arrieta to be an ultimate competitor on the mound. Although he's obviously at a different stage of his career than 2017, the club isn't counting out what he can contribute to their new-look starting rotation this season, which he figures to slot in as the No. 2 or 3 starter.
"Do I think he's the Cy Young type pitcher I saw in ‘15 and ’16? I would say right now, no," Ross added. "But does he have a chance to get back to a version of that? Absolutely.
"I know Jake feels like he could get back to that form, and that's all that matters to me, is that he's going to work to get back to the guy that he believes he is and that presence he carries already from having the résumé he has.
"Ceiling, floor, those kind of labels, I don't like to do that, but I'm excited about the potential of where he can be this year for us."