Arrieta named Cubs' Opening Day starter

Arrieta named Cubs' Opening Day starter

MESA, Ariz. -- Joe Maddon made the easiest decision he'll likely have this spring on Tuesday, when he announced that reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta will be the Cubs' Opening Day starter.

Arrieta, who went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA last season, will open the Cubs' 2016 season by starting April 4 against the Angels in Anaheim. This will be the right-hander's second Opening Day start, as he also did so in 2012 with the Orioles.

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"He's very excited about it," Maddon said. "He's earned that right, to be named the Opening Day starter. If you're a starting pitcher, it really carries a lot of prestige along with it. He's earned it, and we're very pleased to be able to announce that."

Jon Lester and John Lackey will fill two of the other spots in the Cubs' rotation, but Maddon wanted to talk to pitching coach Chris Bosio before deciding on how the order goes. The rest of the rotation is still to be determined. Jason Hammel, Kyle Hendricks, Travis Wood and Adam Warren are among the candidates.

Arrieta will be at least the fifth Major League pitcher who has made multiple Opening Day starts and won a Cy Young Award before being named an All-Star, joining Pete Vuckovich, John Denny, LaMarr Hoyt and Doug Drabek. Corey Kluber also could join that list this year. He won the American League Cy Young Award in 2014 and could be the Indians' Opening Day starter for the second straight season, but he has never been an All-Star.

Lester made his fifth career Opening Day start and first with the Cubs last season, taking the loss against the Cardinals.

"I think it's one of the hardest days of the year to pitch, personally," Lester said. "There's a lot of distractions, a lot of things going on. Everybody's excited to get the year going. There's a lot of outside things that are hard to control. We all knew [Arrieta] was going to get that honor. I'm excited for him. It's awesome and a cool deal. It's something that not a lot of people get to do."

If Lester followed Arrieta, he would face the Angels in Anaheim on April 5, and Lackey could then open the Cubs' series against the D-backs in Phoenix on April 7.

"I just want to pitch," Lester said. "I'm not picky at all."

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