Arrieta takes another step with simulation

MESA, Ariz. -- With team president Theo Epstein and manager Rick Renteria looking on Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta threw a three-inning simulated game on Wednesday morning as he continues his recovery from winter “shoulder stiffness.”

“I was glad to get up-and-down-three-times out of the way,” Arrieta said afterwards.

Arrieta is on pace to return sometime in mid to late April as he’s already on a five day pitching routine. There’s plenty of focus on him as he could be a core pitcher as the Cubs move into their next phase of rebuilding in the coming years. His stuff is that good.

“Fifty pitches is a good place to be right now,” Arrieta said. “Hopefully we’ll bump it up to 60-65. I’m right there after that point. It’s been a good progression.”

Arrieta would be scheduled to throw again on Monday but the Cubs may wait until Tuesday to utilize their day off in Pittsburgh. When he’s ready, Arrieta will go on assignment to a minor league team before joining the Cubs next month. The key is his shoulder is feeling good.

“I anticipate some soreness but to feel normal after an outing,” he said.

Spring instructor Rick Sutcliffe recently said Arrieta could be a “top-of-the-rotation guy” but he needs to stay healthy and have some easier innings. Arrieta has had some control problems in the past which have raised his pitch counts and taken him out of games early.

Arrieta came from the Baltimore Orioles in an early July trade last season which sent Scott Feldman to Baltimore. Reliever Pedro Strop was also acquired in that deal.