CHICAGO - Jake Arrieta is a pretty good example of the life cycle of baseball.
Four years ago, Jon Lester left the Red Sox for the Cubs in free agency. His first year with the Cubs was Arrieta's second, and it was that season that Arrieta went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA and won the NL Cy Young award.
Arrieta credits Lester as a mentor, and in a lot of ways, that situation is similar to the bond developing between Arrieta and Aaron Nola.
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What Arrieta learned from Lester, he's paying forward to the Phils' young ace.
"Nola's 24 years old and he's pitching like an ace," Arrieta said. "He's pitching like he's 30 years old and he's got a couple Cy Youngs under his belt. To be able to have even a little bit of influence on guys like that and help them take the next step forward in their career, that's just part of my job."
Even the Cubs' signing of Lester in the offseason heading into 2015 is similar to the Phils' signing of Arrieta in February. The Cubs were a team on the rise which needed to supplement the young core with valuable, established veterans. Lester had already won two World Series rings and pitched very well for the Red Sox in the postseason.
When he got to Chicago, he brought more than just 200 innings a season.
"With Lester, it's kind of contagious when you see a guy like that walk around, walk through the clubhouse," Arrieta said. "He might as well have been talking about himself.
"The pedigree that he has, I possess that but it's almost like reiterated every time you see him go out there. My confidence level was heavily influenced by him. I'm thankful for that."
Veteran presence is a sports cliché. It's so cliché that it's what I name all of my fantasy teams. But if you actually observe the way players interact with one another, you see the value of it. Arrieta commands a level of respect in the Phillies' clubhouse and when you watch him stand next to Nick Pivetta or Vince Velasquez in the dugout during a game, you just know one of the young righties is soaking up a ton of knowledge.
"I think that they've grown to trust me and that's the most important thing," Arrieta said. "When you're around a new group of guys, you've got to develop that trust. You've got to create a personal bond that might have to start off the field.
"Each and every one of those guys is different. Zach Eflin is a quiet kid, tremendously talented. Same thing with Velasquez. You really have to get to know these guys before they trust you. Such tremendous arms. So much talent."
There was a chance none of this could've happened. Arrieta didn't expect to re-sign with the Cubs this past offseason, but Theo Epstein did make a late call to see if a deal could be worked out as Arrieta lingered in free agency.
"I knew that there was always an opportunity to come back here until I signed with another team," Arrieta said. "It was a very chaotic offseason for free agents, not only myself but everybody involved. When Theo did call, it seemed like it could've been a possibility but just the way it all went down, I was leaning more and more to the side of probably not returning to Chicago.
"Would it have been great if I signed here? Yes. Am I happy with the way things worked out ultimately signing with the Phillies? Absolutely."
Sometimes a starting pitcher can make an impact more than once every five days.