MESA, Arizona — Jake Arrieta approaches baseball different than most of those in the game.
He carries a gallon of kale juice around the Chicago Cubs' spring training facility. He uses Pilates as a part of his offseason regimen. Chances are, his body percentage might be lower than his 2.53 ERA last year.
So it's no wonder that Arrieta has hit it off with new Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who is best known for his offbeat ways of managing a team.
"I like when guys come at me from different directions," Maddon said. "And he is one of those guys."
"He's confident, looks you in the eye and he is bright. I kind of like it," he said. "We talk a lot. He is very interesting. He likes to just talk to me about stuff."
Arrieta's stuff was the talk of baseball last season when he had three near no-hit bids.
He finished the season 10-5 in 25 starts after beginning the year on the disabled list because of shoulder stiffness. In 156 2-3 innings, he struck out 167, walked 41 and allowed 114 hits.
It was a breakout season for Arrieta, who turns 29 on March 6. It came after a rather middling start (20-25 with 5.46 ERA) to his major league career after being called up by the Orioles in 2010.
Arrieta said he believes the improvement can be traced to the fact that he finally matched his mindset to the physical portion of the game.
"The mental side of the game is more important than people understand," he said. "At the highest level, everyone has the tools. It's about how are you going to separate yourself on another level and how are you going to prepare and be ready for all of the challenges thrown your way during competition."
"I was able to shift away from the mechanical focus into more of a mindset focus," he said. "It is what has helped prepare me to reach the next level."
Arrieta, who was drafted in the fifth round by the Orioles out of TCU in 2007, made nine starts for the Cubs in August and went 4-2 with a 3.66 ERA.
All together, he has essentially put together one season — 34 starts — in his time with Cubs and has gone 14-7 with a 2.81 ERA.
If Arrieta continues that type of production, he will fit in nicely behind newcomer and expected ace Jon Lester.
Arrieta enters the spring confident and ready to take on that type of role as he tries to build off last year's success.
"I always reassess the way the season went and whether or not I want to incorporate new things or keep the same and go from there. So I started incorporate Pilates and shift away from heavy weightlifting," he said.
"I've come to that point in my career where I know how my body reacts to certain things and what I can put it thorough and handle different types of training," he said. "I've formulated a pretty good routine and I am going to stick with it."
And if something else pops up, he knows he can go to Maddon to try and work things out. Or just talk about whatever topic two of baseball's deep thinkers get into that day.
"It's really important for guys to establish things in common or interests outside of baseball," Arrieta said. "It's what we do all day every day, so it is nice to find out something from behind the scenes to get to know each other's personalities."
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