Notes: Arrieta's return; Strop quarantining

March 8th, 2021

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The first Day in four years for the Cubs did not get off to the cleanest of starts. Josh Rojas led off with a hard single to center for the D-backs on Sunday afternoon, and Ketel Marte followed by drawing a walk.

"First real game in spring," Arrieta said. "I was amped up pretty good."

That was understandable, given that this outing at Salt River Fields was Arrieta's first game in a Cubs uniform since he beat the Dodgers in Game 4 of the 2017 National League Championship Series. That also happens to be Chicago's last postseason win, though Arrieta hopes to help snap that streak in the coming campaign.

Back on a one-year deal with the Cubs, and one day removed from his 35th birthday, Arrieta worked two innings against the D-backs. After that tough opening to the start, he settled in and set down the next six batters he faced in order. The veteran right-hander generated three flyouts, one infield popout and a pair of groundouts.

"I was looking forward to my first outing for a while," Arrieta said. "Getting out there today in that environment, on the road and against another team, starting off with two guys on base, no outs and being able to get the job done, these are all situations that are going to arise during the season. So, it's nice to get them out of the way."

Per Statcast, Arrieta averaged 91.9 mph with his sinker, and he had two swinging strikes (both via his slider) among the dozen swings he enticed. The righty piled up 30 pitches and put into practice some of the delivery adjustments he has been working on in bullpen sessions and live batting practice.

"I just needed to get the foot down a little bit earlier," Arrieta said. "Arm's in a good spot, but syncing up that lower-body, upper-body connection is something that I'm going to continue to work on over the next few weeks."

Strop held out for violating protocols
The Cubs managed to navigate the entire 2020 season with no positive COVID-19 tests among their player group and with no major setbacks related to the virus. Led by manager David Ross and the core leaders in the clubhouse, the team held one another accountable when it came to following protocols.

On Sunday, it was revealed that veteran reliever -- competing for a spot in the Cubs' bullpen as a non-roster invitee -- will be quarantining away from the team for several days after violating COVID-19 guidelines. Ross plans on addressing the issue with the rest of the team on Monday morning.

"It's easy to get in this environment and relax," Ross said. "And we did such a good job last year following the protocols. It's just a reminder. A reminder for him, us. ... We've got to continue to stay diligent since it's real, and we've got to follow protocols."

Ross spoke Saturday evening with Strop, who was recently pictured in a since-deleted social-media post with Cleveland's Franmil Reyes (also being held out of his camp, along with José Ramírez, for protocol violations). The Cubs manager emphasized the importance of not dining indoors right now.

Strop will be away from the team for an undermined amount of time, and he will have to clear testing hurdles before rejoining the team.

"From what I understand," Ross said, "it's just, you're going to have to sit out, which is almost punishment enough for a guy that's trying to make a team, right? That's a big deal."

Worth noting
• Righty , who is in the mix for a job as a starter or multi-inning reliever, followed Arrieta and threw 32 pitches to eight batters. Alzolay recorded two outs and allowed exit velocities in excess of 100 mph on four of the six balls in play. He walked two and gave up four hits, including a homer to Stephen Vogt.

• The Cubs acquired Minor League first baseman Shendrik Apostel from the Pirates on Sunday in exchange for righty Duane Underwood Jr. (recently designated for assignment). Apostel, 20, hit .252/.381/.463 in the Dominican Summer League across the 2018-19 seasons.

• Shortstop Javier Báez returned to the starting lineup on Sunday after being hit on the inside of his right forearm by a pitch on Friday. Báez went through a workout Saturday with no issues and then went 1-for-3 with a single against the D-backs.

• Hot-hitting infielder Nico Hoerner -- vying for the starting job at second base -- went 0-for-2 with a walk against Arizona. That makes Hoerner 7-for-10 on the spring.

"None of us are going to be mad at Pedro. It's just a little slipup and, again, I think it's a moment for us to realize that we need to take the protocols seriously and keep everybody as safe as possible, so we can play all 162 this year." -- Arrieta, on Strop

Up next
Right-hander is scheduled to start for the Cubs on Monday, when the North Siders host the Rangers at 2:05 p.m. CT (live on MLB.TV) at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz. Outfielder Ian Happ will likely be in the lineup, following a day off on Sunday.