CINCINNATI -- Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta's first start of the season, originally slated for Wednesday against the Cincinnati Reds, will likely be pushed back to the weekend against the St. Louis Cardinals after rain forced the postponement of Monday's Cubs-Reds game. Travis Wood remains on course to start the opening game of the Cardinals series Friday at Wrigley Field.
Arrieta spent the first month on the disabled list with shoulder stiffness.
"Feeling really strong," he said on Monday afternoon. "I'm confident I can pick up where I left off and be even better than that."
Arrieta, 28, missed all of spring training after experiencing soreness this past winter. He threw five rehab starts this month for Single and Double-A producing a 2.25 ERA. He gave up 13 hits and seven walks in 20 innings. He was acquired last July from the Baltimore Orioles along with reliever Pedro Strop for starter Scott Feldman. Arrieta went 4-2 with a 3.66 ERA in nine starts for the Cubs. He could be a big part of their future as his off-speed stuff is some of the best in the league but he's had control problems over the course of his career.
"It's another step in the development process," Arrieta said of this season. "With the work that I put in I think sky is the limit. I think I can be a guy this team can rely on for a long time."
Manager Rick Renteria said Arrieta always had a starting spot in the rotation once he got healthy.
"He did a side [Monday]," Renteria said. "It went well. ... We'll put [Carlos] Villanueva back in the bullpen."
Villanueva started five games in Arrieta's absence, going 1-5 with a 10.42 ERA. Two of those losses came in a relief role the first week of the season. He gave up 30 hits over his last three starts becoming the first Cubs player with that distinction since Les Lancaster in 1988.
"Was just keeping the seat warm," Villanueva said. "I kept it lukewarm I guess. I'm going back to where I've had the most success the last number of years."