“I’ve always wanted to pitch at a high level for whatever team I’m with, and I feel I can continue to do so,” Arrieta said after pitching six perfect innings before settling for a 7-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds and his third consecutive win in as many starts. “I would like those two guys to be a part of it.
“With that being said, I don’t necessarily think that’s going to be the case. But I look forward to seeing those guys pitch every five days and wish them the best. Obviously, the competitors we are, we want to go out there and pitch better than the guy before us. That’s the mentality all of us have as a staff and makes us pitch the way we have.”
If the trades of Samardzija and Hammel become a reality by the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline, the Cubs will have some semblance of confidence that Arrieta will be able to move up near the top of the rotation and perform at a high level.
Arrieta has a 1.14 ERA over his past four starts and has walked two while striking out 36 over that span. The biggest difference between last season and his season is the effectiveness and command of his slider and cut fastball, which has plenty of deception and resulted in many of the nine strikeouts.
“It’s way better because he can throw it front door to a right-handed batter,” said catcher Welington Castillo, who was careful to let Arrieta call his own game in Castillo’s second start since returning from the 15-day disabled list. “He didn’t have that last year. He’s getting better.”
According to one radar gun, Arrieta's fastball was clocked at 96 mph, his cut fastball at 90-91 mph and slider at 87-88 mph.
Said manager Rick Renteria; “It’s got late life, some tilt, some angle to it. It’s multi-dimensional and sharp. It comes out of the sky very well.”
Arrieta, who was Baltimore’s opening day starter in 2012, only to struggle before getting traded to the Cubs last July, said his recent success stems from being diligent in his preparation no matter how sluggish he may feel.
“There are days when you come to the park and don’t feel good and body is hanging, but you got to find a way to prepare and get something out of the day and move in the right direction,” said Arrieta, who missed all of spring training and April because of right shoulder tightness. “And I’ve been able to do that. My routine has been very solid. Those are the results of the process I’ve been going through.
“It’s finally becoming a little bit more easy, I guess. It’s never easy to have success at this level. But if you do things the right way, you give yourself the best chance to have some success.”
Arrieta said he was aware of his perfect game bid, but his discipline at the plate actually affected perfect game bid. Arrieta drew a walk to start the sixth and spent an extended period on the bases paths before crossing home plate.
His perfect game bid ended immediately when Billy Hamilton led off the seventh with a clean single through the middle of the infield.
“I was pretty gassed there,” Arrieta said. “Unfortunately, but it a pretty humid night, and a long inning in the sixth. Running the bases, which really isn’t all that tough in itself, but couple that with being on the mound (after) that long layoff, adds a little bit to it. I left a couple balls up that (Jay) Bruce and (Devin) Mesoraco were able to put good wood on it and drive in a couple runs.”
Renteria claimed he wasn’t superstitious but said he declined to check on Arrieta’s well-being after running the bases because he hadn’t spoken to him during his perfect game bid.
But Arrieta’s continued success gave Renteria a better feeling about the future, even if Samardzija and Hammel are traded.
“Right now he’s here, and the future is right now with him,” Renteria said. “And we’re happy to have him.’’