Cubs release former ace Arrieta after rough return to team

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Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta throws to a Milwaukee Brewers batter during the first inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

CHICAGO – Jake Arrieta won a Cy Young Award and helped the Chicago Cubs capture a drought-busting World Series championship in his first stint with the club. His second go-round was nowhere near as successful.

It ended with his release Thursday.

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Arrieta was informed of the decision a day earlier, after getting tagged for eight runs in a 10-0 loss to Milwaukee, Cubs president Jed Hoyer said. The 35-year-old right-hander was 5-11 with a 6.88 ERA in 20 starts.

“Nothing that happened on the mound last night or the other nights in any way diminishes his role in club history,” Hoyer said. “When you look back, I think there’s a really good argument to say he’s one of the more influential people in the history of this franchise.”

The Cubs also placed catcher Willson Contreras on the 10-day injured list because of sprained right knee that Hoyer said is not serious. They selected right-handed pitcher Ryan Meisinger from Triple-A Iowa, reinstated catcher catcher Austin Romine from the 60-day IL and designated left-hander Kyle Ryan for assignment.

Arrieta agreed in February to a $6 million, one-year deal. His return to Chicago had a chance to be a feel-good story, but it ended on a rough note. He was 0-7 with a 9.92 ERA in his final 11 starts.

Arrieta was the NL Cy Young Award winner with Chicago in 2015 and helped the Cubs win the 2016 World Series, their first championship since 1908. He went 68-31 with a 2.73 ERA in 128 starts over five years and threw two no-hitters during his first stint with the team.

He then signed a $75 million, three-year contract with Philadelphia in free agency and went 22-23 with a 4.36 ERA in 64 starts with the Phillies. He had a 4-4 record and a 5.08 ERA in nine starts during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

When Arrieta returned to Chicago, he joined a new-look rotation. The Cubs traded Yu Darvish to San Diego and let Jon Lester depart for in free agency.

He also reunited with David Ross, who caught Arrieta’s second no-hitter and led Chicago to the NL Central championship last year in his first season as manager. Ross said the decision to release Arrieta was tough.

“You hate that one on so many levels for me,” Ross said. “A friend and a guy I’ve got so much to be thankful for that he’s given me. It just stinks. I try to forget stuff like last night, look at what he’s done for this organization, how consistent he has been with the time I was on his team in ’15 and ’16.”

Cubs ace Kyle Hendricks called Arrieta a mentor and said it was tough to see him go.

“The moment I got called up, he kind of took me under his wing a little bit, showed me the ropes, just taught me about the big leagues,” Hendricks said. “I owe him a ton just to being comfortable in this environment, in this organization. And then, everything he did for this organization, his time here. That run he went on, man, it was the most fun to go out there and watch him pitch.”

The Cubs have dropped eight straight and 14 of 16 following Thursday’s 17-4 loss to Milwaukee. They’ve gone from being tied with the Brewers for the NL Central lead after Zach Davies and the bullpen combined to no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 24 to 18 1/2 games back.

Chicago also traded away championship core players Kris Bryant, Javier Báez and Anthony Rizzo as well as star closer Craig Kimbrel before the July 30 deadline. Bryant, Báez and Rizzo had expiring contracts.

“Right now, obviously, we’re playing short-handed,” Hoyer said. “I think that’s very clear. We’re not planning on playing short-handed going forward. We were in fourth place at the deadline. Obviously, at that point we weren’t at the level we needed to be. We made decisions for the future. For the next couple months, we’re gonna have to play short-handed and give a lot of opportunities.”


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