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Levine: Cubs' Jake Arrieta Calls Opening Night Start 'An Honor'

By Bruce Levine--

MESA, Ariz. (CBS) -- The enormity of an Opening Day start can mess with a pitcher's mind as the pressure of a new season begins to gradually build. In the case of Cubs ace and reigning NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, minimizing the event itself may help him get through the festivities of taking the ball against the Angels in the season opener on April 4.

A day after Cubs manager Joe Maddon confirmed what everyone expected, Arrieta was composed and spoke matter of factly about getting his second career Opening Day start and first with the Cubs.

"It is kind of something that may be made a little too much of," Arrieta said. "It is done now. Really after Opening Day, we really have 161 games left to play. That is really my only concern. It is an honor obviously."

Left-hander Jon Lester started the Cubs' opener in 2015, and he's conveyed the feeling that the day is full of distractions. Arrieta led the Orioles to a victory in 2012 in their opener, and he believes that experience will help him.

"I was able to get that Opening Day start earlier in my career," Arrieta said. "That was a different point of my career. This is another chapter, not only for myself but for everyone here. We are just looking forward to the journey.

"The biggest thing is to keep your emotions in check. You try to control your breathing and your heart rate. You don't want things to speed up on you too much. You know somebody has to start that game -- it just so happens to be me. It's a unique situation, but we are going to need five guys (in the rotation) to get where we want to go."

A year after going 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA and now just a couple weeks into spring training, Arrieta also added he's ready to go already. His work ethic is still his ace in the hole.

"If the season started today, I would be ready to go," he said. "I have to pull in the reins a little bit and not overwork things. I need to stay fresh with my sides. I need to make sure I don't push myself too much in the weight room. I need to find the right combination of aggressiveness, on and off the field. I also must be ready when the time comes, the first day of the season."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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