Arrieta faces hitters for first time

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs starter Jake Arrieta finally faced hitters this spring, throwing against Cubs teammates on Sunday morning. He threw 41 warmup pitches and 24 batting practice pitches and came out of the session pleased with his progress.

“Everything felt crisp,” said Arrieta, who has been slowed by shoulder stiffness this spring training. “I wanted to throw everything for strikes including off-speed, just to get the rotation down.”

Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio was also encouraged by the outing.

"Today was really good," Bosio said. "We tried to simulate everything he would do on game day and he was right on his number. ... Couldn't be happier with how that went. The biggest thing will be how he feels tomorrow and the feedback from the medical staff."

Arrieta said his velocity was at about “80 percent” for all his pitches. His fastball came in between 90-92 mph while his slider registered about 85-87 mph.

“In the grand scheme of things it’s not that big of an issue,” Arrieta said of missing time. “Health is the biggest priority, and making sure I’m able to help our guys win for the majority of the season.”

Arrieta said he felt something in his shoulder over the winter so he backed off his offseason program and the Cubs delayed his throwing in Arizona. For him right now, it’s like late February instead of mid-March.

“You have something you might not feel is right so you tell someone about it and go from there,” he said. “Precaution is the right way to approach something, especially at the time. Just to make sure no damage is done and everything is structurally where it needs to be.”

Arrieta was acquired from Baltimore last season for Scott Feldman and is looking for a long-term home. He has the stuff to be part of the Cubs core, but control problems have plagued him. Still, he put up decent numbers after the trade, going 4-2 with a 3.66 ERA. He gave up only 34 hits in 51 innings. This is a big year for the 28-year-old.

“I’m just excited. I feel good, feel strong,” Arrieta said. “Only having to miss a start or two isn’t the worst case.”

Arrieta will likely start the season on the disabled list as he continues to get ready. If his arm responds the right way on Monday he’ll throw another bullpen session in a couple of days then could be ready for game action before the end of the month.

“The last thing I want to do is be on the disabled list for three months,” Arrieta said of taking things slow.