Chicago Cubs: Jake Arrieta throws bullpen session, to return Thursday

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 13: Starting pitcher Jake Arrieta
PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 13: Starting pitcher Jake Arrieta /

 The Chicago Cubs should be getting a boost in their rotation, as Jake Arrieta is expected to return this week.

Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta, who has missed over two weeks with a hamstring strain, should find his way back into the rotation soon. Arrieta made his last start on September 4 against the Pittsburgh Pirates and was forced to leave in the third inning when he experienced pain in his right hamstring. To the relief of the fans, the injury was not serious enough to keep him off the field for the rest of the season.

Arrieta’s return could prove to be a huge pick-me-up for an already-surging Cubs team. The right-hander threw a bullpen session on Tuesday and says he feels ready to go. Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon says the plan is for Arrieta to start this Thursday against the Milwaukee Brewers.

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What to expect

As has been the case with the rest of the Cubs’ pitching staff, Arrieta got off to a bit of a rough start. But the veteran starter has been on a tear since July, giving the rotation some much-needed stability. Like teammate Kyle Hendricks, Arrieta’s first and second halves of the season have been night and day.

In the first half of the season, Arrieta recorded a 4.35 ERA over 101 1/3 innings pitched. Command was a struggle during this stretch. Home runs and walks plagued him in his first-half starts.

But Arrieta has since turned things around. His second half has been significantly better, pitching to the tune of a 1.98 ERA over 59 innings pitched. Opposing hitters are managing just a .195 batting average against him over this span. His strikeout rate is up while his walk rate is down.

On the season, Arrieta is 14-9 with a 3.48 ERA and a 1.198 WHIP. If he can pick up where he left off, the Cubs will be an even better team as the regular season winds down.

Catalyst for a strong finish

While the St. Louis Cardinals are more or less out of the picture to win the division, the Milwaukee Brewers are still, at the very least, a minor threat and within breathing distance of the NL Central lead with just under two weeks to go.

If everything goes according to plan, Arrieta’s first start will be on Thursday in the opener of a three-game series with the Brewers. This series could be the final nail in the coffin for the Brewers, or it could make things uncomfortably close.

Next: A look at how Kyle Hendricks got back on track

Jake Arrieta has a chance to set the tone. A chance to help the Cubs sustain the momentum they’ve been building lately. He could be the spark that helps the team seal the deal so they can start focusing on making another spectacular run in the playoffs.