Arrieta eyes improvement after rocky spring debut

Arrieta eyes improvement after rocky spring debut

MESA, Ariz. -- Jake Arrieta took a long run after his outing Sunday. The Cubs starter wasn't too pleased with himself.

In two innings in his first Cactus League start, Arrieta walked three and served up one hit, a solo home run to the Rangers' Mitch Moreland. Texas held on for a 6-4 victory in front of 15,243 at Sloan Park.

It could be looked at as a positive after last spring, when Arrieta didn't appear in a game because of tightness in his shoulder that pushed back his first start of 2014 to May 3. The precautionary move paid off, as the right-hander finished 10-5 with a 2.53 ERA in 25 starts.

"My outings when I was rehabbing last year were statistically below average and not very good," Arrieta said. "Getting in games and getting the feel of a game situation, at least the first two or three, are most important. Then you want to see when you get stretched out four, five, six innings, that's when you want to see some results.

"Even now, I expect results. I punished myself a little bit running just because of the walks. It's just something I do to get better."

The problems on Sunday can be corrected, he said. The good news is he'll have more opportunities in the next four weeks leading up to the start of the regular season, as opposed to throwing early bullpens or pitching in the Minor Leagues as he did last year.

Manager Joe Maddon watched Arrieta when he was with the Orioles from 2010-13 and always liked the pitcher.

"The big thing with him was you'd hit those spurts when you couldn't touch him and then things would blow up, like maybe the fourth or fifth inning, but the stuff was always electric," Maddon said.

He called Arrieta an "aggressive, assertive, bulldog-looking kind of dude."

"I've always thought the talent was there, always," Maddon said. "We always spoke highly of him as an opponent."

Everything clicked for Arrieta last season with the Cubs, once he was healthy.

"I think it was just a matter of him understanding himself better," Maddon said. "How do I do this? How do I breathe properly between pitches when things go bad? What do I do when things start to go sideways a little bit? What are the adjustments I have to make?"

Arrieta is a big believer in developing not just a strong physique, but also a strong mind.

"There's a lot of ways to be successful," Arrieta said. "I think all of those ways incorporate a strong mindset. Without that, it becomes more difficult to attain your level of ability or potential if you don't use the mental side to your benefit."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.