MESA, Ariz. -- After throwing two scoreless innings in his first spring outing Wednesday in an eventual 5-3 Cubs loss, Jake Arrieta played a little baseball with his 4-year-old son, Cooper, who made better contact off his dad than the Indians did.
Arrieta struck out four of the six Indians batters he faced, and appeared to be in total command.
"The body control was incredible, the ball was coming out of my hand with really low effort," Arrieta said. "The velocity was great. All signs are pointing in a really good direction."
That's all good news for the Cubs, who are counting on the reigning National League Cy Young winner. Arrieta, who will start Opening Day, is coming off a 22-6 season and a career-high 229 innings. The Cubs delayed his first Cactus League appearance until Wednesday because they want him fresh late in the season. He may find manager Joe Maddon coming to get him a little earlier in games during the regular season to keep him fresh.
"I didn't want to come out in the seventh or eighth [last year], but at the end of the day what's most important for our team is what I care about," Arrieta said. "If that means only going 210 [innings] up to October instead of 230, I'm fine with that. We're more than capable of having guys come in and successfully closing the door, and not only for me, but for the rest of our staff."
Arrieta struck out the first two batters he faced, and his fastball registered 96 mph on the stadium radar gun. Want to nitpick? He fell behind the first two batters he faced in the second inning, 2-0.
"I didn't have the robotic mode on at that point," he said. "I was thinking after the second inning, that if I came out for the third, I would intentionally walk the first guy so I could pitch with somebody on base.
"Spring Training is a unique situation," he said. "You want to work on certain scenarios, you want to pitch with guys on base, you want to work on altering your signs with a guy on second, but how do you intentionally put a guy on second base? The biggest thing is I feel great, the timeline is laid out in a manner to prepare me for Opening Day, and that's what I'm excited about."
Of the 32 pitches Arrieta threw, there were two or three cutters, two or three curveballs, a couple of changeups and the rest were fastballs. That was the mix he wanted. One of those cutters fooled Lonnie Chisenhall in the second. So, what's next on Arrieta's schedule?
"Just continue what I did today but on a more extended scale," he said. "As the pitch count builds, that's when you get to work more sequences and see hitters multiple times. That's the next progression -- rolling the lineup over a time or two and play that chess match with guys and mix up your sequences and work with your catchers."
It was a battle of two Cy Young winners at the start of the game. The Indians' Corey Kluber won the American League award in 2014.
"I think he obviously had an unbelievable year last year," Kluber said of Arrieta. "I think the level that he dominated at for the second half of last year was pretty unprecedented."
Arrieta, who posted a 0.75 ERA in 15 second-half starts, is eager to pick up where he left off.
"I'm at exactly where I thought I would be," he said.