Jake Arrieta had a few butterflies before his first spring outing this past Monday and they had nothing to do with the fact that this might be his last season with the Cubs. Arrieta will be a free agent after this season, and he’s trying to keep the focus on baseball, not his contract status. “The 25, 24, 30 other guys in the clubhouse don’t need to hear about my contract,” Arrieta said after pitching two innings against the Angels in a 13-10 Cubs victory. “It’s just a distraction. If we have a conversation about it, then great. If not, that’s fine, too. I try to keep the focus on the team and go from there.” He didn’t take the mound feeling sentimental about this possibly being his last spring with the Cubs. “It’s not something I sit down and think about at length,” Arrieta said. “It’s a situation many players have been in in the past. They’ve dealt with it. It might not be something fun to talk about. I understand it’s a circumstance of where I’m at in my career. The time is coming to a point where either a deal gets done or I go to free agency. The focus needs to be for the next eight months being a Chicago Cub and trying to do the best job I can individually and help my guys be the best they can be.”
“It’s going to work out well for him,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “The biggest thing is that he has a free and clear mind when he goes out to the mound. I think he will. He knows he has our support. … Let’s hope it works out well for him and the Cubs.”
Arrieta gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits, including a solo home run by the Angels’ Jefry Marte in the second, in his two innings. “I feel great,” Arrieta said. “I still feel the same way I felt when I was in my early 20s. You hear age is just a number. I believe it is. Thirty-one doesn’t sound great, but I still feel great. That’s all I’m worried about.”
In 2015, Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award, winning 22 games and posting a 1.77 ERA in 33 starts. Last year, he went 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA. “The biggest difference for me last year was command of his fastball,” Maddon said. “If he had had the command of his fastball last year that he had the year before, then  would’ve been pretty significant.”
An increase in walks in 2016 from the previous year bothered Arrieta, who did lead the NL in batting average on balls in play (.242). He’s got a few more starts in Arizona to work on his mechanics. “For the first one, the result wasn’t exactly what I would’ve liked, but getting the work in is the only thing that matters at this point,” Arrieta said.
According to a report, Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s salary will get a boost each of the last three years of his deal from $5 million to $6 million. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman first reported the salary increase. Maddon told Chicago media on Thursday that he didn’t know he had that clause in his contract. “I guess in some way it’s an honor to be considered in that position, but also it’s a function of where I work, too,” Maddon said.
“Honestly, when this all came about, my first thought was the more you could make, the more you could give back,” said Maddon, who is involved in charitable endeavors, including his Respect 90 Foundation.
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer told the Chicago Sun-Times that it’s the kind of bonus they’re willing to pay. “I think with an escalator of that type, it’s the kind of escalator you hope you’re paying,” Hoyer said. “I’m glad we are.”
Left-hander Mike Montgomery logged two innings and gave up one run with a strikeout in Thursday’s 8-6 loss to the Mariners, as the competition for the fifth starter spot continues. “Right now, it’s just about health,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said before Thursday’s Cactus League contest at Sloan Park. “They all look really good, they’ve all been throwing the ball well.”
Montgomery and Brett Anderson are being considered for the fifth spot, although Anderson may need to stay in the rotation because of his back. He missed nearly all of last season following back surgery one year ago in March. Anderson gave up two runs on five hits in two innings of relief after Montgomery exited on Thursday.
“Anderson has been more of a starter, but ‘Monty’ has been amenable or able to relieve,” Maddon said. “We’ll see how it plays out. To have those two guys competing for the No. 5 spot is a nice problem to have. Both could be solid — not No. 5 starters, but way better than that [on another team].
“When you look at those names, and you go [Jon Lester], [John Lackey], [Jake Arrieta], [Kyle Hendricks] and then go Anderson and Montgomery, that’s pretty solid stuff.”
The Cubs assigned six pitchers to Minor League camp to trim the roster to 60. The six included Andury Acevedo, Gerardo Concepcion, Daniel Corcino, Manny Parra, Fernando Rodriguez and Ryan Williams. Maddon said the six will get more work in Minor League games than they were in the Cactus League games.
Former Cubs pitcher Bill Hands, who won 20 games for Chicago in 1969, died Thursday in Florida at age 76. Hands, nicknamed “Froggy,” pitched 11 seasons in the Major Leagues, seven of them with the Cubs. He also spent time with the Giants, Twins and Rangers.
The Cubs announced on Thursday that they have agreed to contract terms with 25 players on their 40-man roster with between zero and three years of Major League service time, including infielder Kris Bryant, who reportedly signed a $1.05 million contract for 2017, setting a record deal for a second-year player. Terms of the contracts were not disclosed by the club. Among the 25 players are a number who made meaningful contributions to the Cubs’ World Series title run in 2016, including pitchers Carl Edwards Jr., Kyle Hendricks, Mike Montgomery and Rob Zastryzny, catcher Willson Contreras, infielders Javier Baez, Bryant, Tommy La Stella and Addison Russell, and outfielders Albert Almora Jr., Kyle Schwarber and Matt Szczur. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported on Sunday that Russell will net $644,000 on a one-year deal for 2017 before becoming arbitration-eligible next offseason. Heyman also reported that the ’17 salary for Bryant, the 2015 National League Rookie of the Year and ’16 NL MVP, could equal or perhaps pass Mike Trout’s $1 million salary earned in 2014 — the highest amount for any pre-arbitration player.
Gabriella Garcia @gabybabyyy