By Bruce Levine--
CHICAGO (CBS) -- The innings watch on major league pitchers is one of the most hotly debated stories in baseball. Teams jump through hoops trying to monitor and control young pitchers' workloads. This overindulgence is based on the theory that less work means an arm will hold up longer for a young pitcher or one returning from injury.
Freeze frame the Jake Arrieta innings total, which stood at 207 entering Tuesday's start. At 29, Arrieta had never thrown more than 156 2/3 innings in a single season his career. The reality of the regular season may have him with 225 total before he takes the mound for the wild-card matchup on Oct. 7.
Normally teams would be freaking out about the sudden rise of a pitcher's workload upward of 75 innings in one season. In the case of Arrieta, his manager and the organization appear to be calm. This is based on the overall training program and condition of a special athlete.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon seemed cool and in the moment when talking about the new waters Arrieta has negotiated this season, on his way to one of the top pitching performances in Cubs' history.
"The difference for us is Jake has been doing this longer," Maddon said in reference to the pitcher making this sudden jump in innings pitched. "There is a difference for sure. He is a little bit older and he has more experience. That is why we are more tolerant than if he was 23 coming out of the minor leagues. You have to consider in this case the guys work ethic."
Arrieta seems to be training for a cross-country run rather than a start every five days. Even his teammates are in awe of the amount of physical work Arrieta puts in before each start.
"We have had pitchers before who started to get up there in the innings pitched area that you worried about," Maddon said. "When those guys got up there in innings and didn't have a good work ethic, you started to think about cutting them off. That group with the good work ethic like Jake, he has gone through all of those different moments."
Despite that leap of faith in the case of Arrieta, Maddon admitted that with pitchers, injury and wear and tear are always a crap shoot.
"Listen, anything can happen to anybody anytime," Maddon insisted. "We are certainly a little more comfortable with him and where he is at, with the maturity of his body."
If the Cubs make it into the World Series, Arrieta could actually throw more than 250 innings. That could be close to 100 innings more than his previous major league high.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.
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