Former TCU pitcher Jake Arrieta becomes Chicago Cubs ace

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    TCU alum Jake Arrieta is having quite a campaign in his fifth season in the MLB:

    Top 10 in the National League in wins above replacement.
    A sub 3.00 ERA.
    Team leader in both wins and strikeouts.
    Ace on one of the most storied franchises in baseball history.
    Arrieta currently stands at 9-5 while posting an ERA of 2.65 with 157 strikeouts and 40 walks.

    The 6’4, 225-pound ace of the Chicago Cubs is enjoying a dominant season after a rocky stretch with the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs, and their Triple A affiliates during his first four years in the majors.

    Arrieta’s impressive 2014 spell may resemble a breakout season, but his success at the MLB level has been a long time coming.

    TCU baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle credits Arrieta’s current success to the work ethic and determination he has shown since his college days.

    “Whether it be in the weight room, pitching, nutrition or his mental game, he’s a poster boy for what you want to do,” Schlossnagle said.

    These sentiments were echoed by Mike Griffin, Jake’s pitching coach with the Norfolk Tides – the Triple A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.

    “Jake drives himself and expects excellence from himself. He is a great worker. We never had to worry about him getting his work done in between starts,” Griffin said.

    Both Schlossnagle and Griffin praised Arrieta by saying their only issue with him on the field was trying to make him “loosen up and smile.”

    Arrieta’s college roommate and teammate Steven Trout said that he was motivated by Arrieta’s work ethic, but said “every once in a while you had to remind him that it was a game and it’s supposed to be fun.”

    Trout, who was a member of Arrieta’s wedding, said that off the field Arrieta is a great and funny guy that would “help you with anything.”

    Arrieta attended Weatherford College for one year before transferring to TCU for the 2006 season. In his first year with the Horned Frogs, Arrieta lead the nation with 14 wins and was a second team All-American.

    In the summer of 2006, Arrieta joined Schlossnagle as part of a Team USA squad that competed in an Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Cuba.

    Arrieta was the number two starter behind current Detroit Tigers star David Price, and he helped the stars and stripes win the gold medal that summer.

    He was still on the USA team in 2008, the last year that baseball was played in the Olympics, and he won a bronze medal with Team USA.

    According to Schlossnagle, Arrieta struggled in 2007, his junior year at TCU, because he overworked his arm and experienced fatigue.

    “[Jake’s] work ethic exceeded his talent, and his talent was already great. That’s why sometimes you had to tell him to back off and slow down a bit,” Schlossnagle said.

    However, Arrieta was still drafted in the fifth round of the 2007 MLB Draft by the Baltimore Orioles. He received a record signing bonus of $1 million to join the club.

    Arrieta’s hard work saw him ascend through the minor leagues to the Triple A level in just three years.

    It is here that Griffin first met Arrieta, and he realized from the start that he was a special player.

    “Right away, I knew that Jake was a very intelligent kid,” Griffin said. “I knew that he was very driven and an intense competitor. It was my job to harness that.”

    Griffin worked to help him consistently turn his dominating pitches into “major league stuff.”

    Arrieta made his major league debut with the Baltimore Orioles in June of 2010, and he was the opening day starter for the Orioles in 2011 and 2012.

    However, Arrieta endured a rough few seasons with the Orioles, and he was sent back down to the minor leagues on multiple occasions.

    Griffin said that this trying time for Arrieta helped build his character and make him mentally tougher. He also said that Arrieta saw this experience as a positive because he now knew what he specifically needed to work on.

    Arrieta returned to the Orioles’ rotation in 2013, but after five starts he was traded to the Chicago Cubs in July.

    Unfortunately for Arrieta, going to the Cubs also meant going back to Triple A, but he was determined to make it back to the majors.

    In August of 2013, Arrieta was called up to pitch for the Cubs, and he hasn’t been sent down since.

    Griffin said that Arrieta learned how to deal with failure quicker than a lot of other pitchers, and that has helped him become what he is today – an ace pitcher in the major leagues.

    “I think a lot of Jake. I really hope that he succeeds. He strives to be the best and doesn’t settle for less. I have a lot of respect for him,” Griffin said.

    Trout added that he is very confident in Arrieta’s future, and he could “definitely see him winning a Cy Young Award one day.”

    After the Cubs’ season ends on Sept. 27, Arrieta will fly home to be with his family in Austin, Texas.

    From there, he’ll have a five-month offseason to work on his game so that the upcoming 2015 season will be his best year yet.