Arrieta reflects on evolution, long-term plans

Arrieta reflects on evolution, long-term plans

MESA, Ariz. -- Instead of Anthony Rizzo at first base, it was Minor Leaguer Yasiel Balaguert, and instead of Addison Russell at shortstop, it was Carlos Penalver. It didn't matter to the Cubs' Jake Arrieta, who pitched five innings in a Minor League game on Friday against the Angels. The discussion after his outing also was about youth, and how long the right-hander expects to pitch.

Who knows, Arrieta could still be in uniform when he's 40, or he could be chauffeuring his kids to practice in a Mercedes Sprinter.

Spring: Info | Tickets | Schedule | Gear

"Look at [John] Lackey," Arrieta said. "He says he's going to retire after this year. Watch him throw. He's healthy, he's got velocity, he knows how to pitch, he's got great command. If he wanted to, he can pitch for three more years.

"Rich Hill signed a three-year deal and he'll pitch until he's 40," Arrieta said. "If I want to, I think I'll still be able to."

Just to be clear, Lackey, 38, hasn't officially announced this is his last season, but what he has done is make adjustments to extend his career, and is heading into his 15th season. Arrieta, who turned 31 on March 6, also has changed.

Arrieta on his outing

"You evolve," Arrieta said. "The stuff is the same it's been since I was a young kid. I was close to 100 [mph] in college. You don't need that. Low-to-mid 90s, four pitches, some maturity, good scouting report, good catcher -- that's all you need."

Will Arrieta be pitching when he's 40?

"I'm hoping I don't have a salt-and-pepper beard," he said.

The Cubs have to decide if Arrieta's long-term plans fit theirs. He will be a free agent after this season.

"It would be cool for sure," Arrieta said of a long-term deal with the Cubs, "but the business is the business. [The Cubs' front office people] are not dummies. There's a rhyme and reason for what they do. They have to put the team's best interest, and the organization's best interests first. I would do the same thing. It's something they will decide one way or another which way we're going to go, and we'll handle it."

If anybody can pitch until he's 40, it's likely Arrieta, who is devoted to a healthy lifestyle, adding Pilates to his workouts and kale-loaded smoothies to his diet. He knows the window of opportunity to play can be limited.

Outlook: Arrieta, SP, CHC

"It's not only for baseball," he said. "It's for my family and my kids. I want to be active and do things with them until I'm not moving and I'm in my recliner for good when I'm 85 or whatever. It's part of my lifestyle, and plays a huge role in my profession in this game. That's something that won't change."

He admitted that he didn't have his "'A' stuff for half the year last year, but says it didn't matter.

"There's plenty of ways to get guys out; changing speeds, changing eye level, relying on movement versus high-end velocity," he said. "I didn't have my cutter for a good part of the year. ... I guarantee if you talk to [Jon] Lester or Lackey, there are two or three seasons when they missed a pitch or two. Pitching is a crazy job and it's hard to find."

Which is why Arrieta will be a very attractive option to some team next year.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.