SCOTTSDALE -- Jacob Arrieta led Cubs pitchers with two home runs last season, and got his swing tuned up on Thursday in his first at-bat in an eventual 5-5 tie against the D-backs.
Making his third Cactus League start, Arrieta launched a 1-2 pitch from Arizona's Zack Greinke onto the berm in left-center field leading off the third inning. It was his first at-bat; the Cubs used the designated hitter in Arrieta's previous starts.
"You never know what to expect early," Arrieta said. "I was just trying to pick up the ball, put good swings on the ball and try not to look too foolish up there. I see the ball pretty well -- people, especially like Anthony Rizzo -- laugh at that, but I see it OK."
It was quite the shot. According to Statcast™, the ball sailed 465 feet, and had an exit velocity off his bat at 104 mph with a launch angle of 29 degrees That's almost normal for Arrieta, who holds the record for longest regular-season home run by a pitcher in the Statcast™ era (2015-present), a 440-foot blast off Shelby Miller on April 10, 2016.
"It was not one of my better pitches," Greinke said. "He hit it really well."
Arrieta came up in the sixth with the bases loaded, and was thinking grand slam.
"When you hit a homer in your first at-bat, you're like, 'It'd be cool to do it again,' especially with the bases loaded," he said. "I got a little overzealous with a changeup and tried to leg it out. It was a decent day at the plate."
It also was a decent day on the mound in the Cubs' 5-5 tie with the D-Backs. Arrieta struck out four and gave up three runs on eight hits and one walk over five-plus innings.
"My timing was really good, effort was really low," Arrieta said. "I threw some good changeups, the curveball spin is back to where it was last year, more 1-to-7, 12-to-6, with some pretty good power. That's a good sign. The sinker is starting to have more of the late-action down movement. That's good."
He did serve up a home run himself to Jake Lamb in the first.
"It was just an elevated sinker, too much of the plate," Arrieta said. "That's what I'm working on here is trying to drive the ball down through the bottom of the strike zone to create the downward action. For the most part it was pretty good."