The Rundown: Arrieta Not Fully Healthy, Almora Hurt, Cubs to Extend Netting

I was adamant prior to his previous start that Jake Arrieta was completely healthy. No way would the Cubs pitch him at less than 100 percent given the immediate implications, nor would he be willing to risk what is sure to be a huge free-agent deal this winter.

I was wrong.

Following a loss to the Cardinals in which he lasted only three innings, Arrieta admitted to the assembled media that he was still feeling the effects of a hamstring strain that had kept him out of action for half of September.

“I’ve had to adjust a couple things in my delivery,” the bearded pitcher said. “It’s still there a little bit, but I’m fine. I’m plenty healthy enough to go out there and compete and pitch at a high level. I just wasn’t able to do that tonight, unfortunately.”

Like…WTF, bro?

Arrieta would have been set to pitch the last game of the regular season as a tune-up for the playoffs, but that’s now very much in question. The Cubs should have the division locked up by then and home-field advantage for the NLDS is out of reach, so having a healthy starter is all that matters.

“I’ve got 170 innings,” Arrieta responded when asked about whether he’d need another start in order to be ready to go in October. “I’m good.”

The Cubs and Arrieta have felt that he was healthy enough to make these two recent starts, so we have every reason to believe he will be good to go after nearly two more weeks of rest. I’d guess at this point that they push him back to Game 3, which gives him more time off and allows him to pitch at Wrigley, where he’s typically been better.

This could have playoff roster implications too, something I’ll delve into in more detail in a separate piece.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t taken aback when I initially saw the reports of Arrieta’s lingering hammy issues, not because they were lingering, but because he was allowed to pitch in spite of them. Given the benefit of time, not to mention a desire to rationalize things, I’m feeling a bit better as I write this. I mean, is anyone really at full strength at this point in the season?

With all that’s riding on Arrieta’s health, everyone involved had to have felt strongly enough that he was not jeopardizing further injury by pitching. As for his ability to perform at a high level, well, that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Almora leaves game, avoids serious injury

Given my unabashed affection for both Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora Jr., I struggled with the idea of seeing the latter pinch-hitting for the former against lefty Zach Duke in the 5th inning. Schwarber had been looking good at the plate, but there was something else about the move that portended doom. Probably just revisionist history on my part to say that.

Regardless of whether my concern manifested in the moment or was the product of hindsight, Almora went crashing into the wall in center like Bump Bailey when he stumbled tracking a Jedd Gyorko home run. The results weren’t nearly as dire as those in The Natural, though Almora was forced to leave after having his shoulder checked out.

Subsequent x-rays were negative and there is reportedly no structural damage, which is a very good thing. We’ll assume for now that Almora will be good to go once the playoffs roll around.

Cubs extending nets, lobbying for ASG

Looks like the small-but-vocal cadre of fans who don’t want to see more netting to protect toddlers from being struck by foul balls are going to have to get used to their pristine views being obstructed. Crane Kenney, Cubs president of business operations, joined the Bernstein and Goff show on 670 The Score Tuesday to discuss the increased safety measures at Wrigley, among other things.

“One of the things that will be happening next year is we move the dugouts a little farther down the line as part of our restoration plan, which we’ve talked about for years,” Kenney explained. “The netting will get pulled a little farther toward the foul poles as a result of the dugouts moving.

“We’ve studied the spray charts for where the balls are heading and obviously, we’ve been pulling the nets further and further along from where they were.”

Kenney went on to acknowledge that mobile phones and various other distractions have heightened the need for the added netting, which is a cloud I’m sure more than than a couple old men will shake their fists at. But I’d be willing to bet that if people didn’t otherwise know about this ahead of time, they wouldn’t even notice the changes next season.

I’ve shared some thoughts on this matter before, but I feel compelled to further my take just a bit. I agree that folks need to be vigilant when sitting in seats where foul balls might be in play and that there’s an assumed risk nearly everywhere in most parks. At the same time, it’s nigh impossible to protect yourself from a batted ball traveling in excess of 100 mph.

Yes, Billy Badass, even you would have trouble making a play on that.

Don’t give me some nonsense about the small percentage of fans who are actually injured by foul balls or thrown bats each year. The point is that even one is too many and that adding a small measure of prevention is worth the incredibly nominal cost, be it to the team or to your sight lines. Maybe I’m going soft in my old age, but I’m just not big on seeing someone blasted in the face by a baseball.

I can assure you that such an event would have a far greater negative impact on my viewing pleasure than having to look through a net will. You may be made of sterner stuff than I, though, able to shrug out the threat of serious bodily injury by quoting Happy Gilmore: “He shouldn’t’ve been sitting there.”

But if that’s your position, I suggest you head to your local empathy store and see if they’ve still got any in stock. It should only take a little bit, I promise. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to climb down from my soapbox here.

Somewhat buried in the talk of the nets was the idea that the Cubs are moving ahead with their plan to move the dugouts down the line a bit as part of ongoing renovation efforts. Wrigley has resembled the Winchester Mystery House these last few years as the efforts have to modernize the ballpark and the surrounding properties seem never-ending.

The plan — which is different from The Plan — is to have everything finished by 2020, which Kenney confirmed is when the Cubs are lobbying to bring the All-Star Game back to Wrigley Field. And by that I mean they’re lobbying now to get the game then, not that they’re waiting until they can see more clearly (get it?) through the construction dust.

More news and notes

  • Bryce Harper was activated off the DL Tuesday, which is pretty remarkable when you think of how nasty-looking his knee injury was. I was certain he’d blown it out completely, but it turned out to be just a bone bruise. Harper went 0-for-2 with a walk in his first game back.
  • The Cards are still 2.5 games behind the Rockies for the second Wild Card spot, which means they’ll need to go at least 3-2 while the Rox go 0-4 to finish the season. And the Cardinals play the Brewers after this set with the Cubs. As much as I dig sudden-death baseball when my team is not involved, I’d just as soon see the Cards eliminated sooner.


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