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What If Jake Arrieta Can't Start Opening Day?

This isn't meant to worry you, but the Cubs have options to consider.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- I continue to believe that Jake Arrieta will take the mound Monday, April 4 in Anaheim against the Angels.

But the Cubs and manager Joe Maddon are being cautious, according to Mark Gonzales in the Tribune:

"I would say he needs to get a legitimate amount of stretching out between now and (the April 4 opener against the Angels) for us to feel comfortable with it," Maddon said. "(Saturday) or the next day will be insightful."

And I don't see any reason that the "insight" Maddon mentions there will tell the Cubs anything other than what we already believe: that Jake will make that April 4 start. Jake concurs:

"As long as I keep it moisturized and not allow it to crack again, we'll be good," said Arrieta, who said that he kept the thumb soaked in Neosporin for hours after being pulled from his start against the Giants after 34 pitches.

Gonzales, though, sets out some alternatives just in case Jake isn't ready:

If the Cubs believe Arrieta, 30, won't be ready for the opener, they could put him on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Friday. Then he could miss one start and return as soon as April 9 against Zack Greinke of the Diamondbacks at Chase Field for a showdown between the one-two finishers 2 in last season's NL Cy Young Award balloting.

The Cubs could wait until Wednesday before deciding whether to put Arrieta on the DL if he doesn't pitch Tuesday against the Athletics.

[Jon] Lester is lined up to start the opener if Arrieta can't, and Lester would have ample rest to make his second start April 9 if Arrieta needed an extra day before making his first start.

So we should know more by Tuesday, at the latest. Again, I have no reason to believe Jake isn't correct in his self-assessment and that he will start April 4. But I wanted to get this out there for you to discuss, so here it is. With the Cubs favorites to win the World Series in many quarters, these are the kinds of things we're going to see quite often this year, I suspect -- every little tweak subject to intense scrutiny.

One of the prices of winning, I suppose. I'll take it.