Even if he’s not pitching, Jake Arrieta’s return to Wrigley Field is a moment

CHICAGO - This happens often for a popular player making a return to a city as good vibes of the past return for someone on an opposing team. But this might be a little bit more sentimental for Cubs fans this week at Wrigley Field.

What's weird is that the former pitcher's not even in the rotation this series, having pitched on Sunday against San Francisco. Yet Jake Arrieta figures to get a warm welcome in his return to Chicago for the first time since his time with the Cubs came to an end this Winter.

That's because the pitcher left quite a legacy during his time with the Cubs, one that started midway through the 2013 season and ended in Game 4 of the 2017 National League Championship Series. In the middle included a Cy Young, three playoff appearances, along with an elusive pennant and World Championship in 2016.

Arrieta returns with a 5-3 record with a strong 2.66 ERA in his first year with the Phillies. He created a stir after his start against the Giants in San Francisco on Sunday, a 6-1 loss at AT&T Park, by calling out his team for lackluster play in the previous few weeks.

"We need to have an accountability check," said Arrieta to ESPN and other reporters in the locker room Sunday. "This is a key moment in our season. We had a pretty good April, a pretty good May. June isn't starting out so well."

More distant memories will be on Cubs' fans minds this week.

Expect some sort of tribute before Tuesday's contest with Philadelphia at Wrigley Field, with the fans likely to give a warm reception to a pitcher who redefined his career as his franchise did the same in the Friendly Confines.

Acquired on July 2, 2013 from the Orioles with Pedro Strop for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger, Arrieta was 4-2 for the rest of that season then 10-5 with a 2.53 ERA in 2014. It was only a sign of things to come as the starter elevated himself to the game's elite.

An incredible second half of 2015 was on par with the Cubs' rise from irrelevancy, as Arrieta went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA that earned him the Cy Young Award. He got the team their first playoff win in 12 years on October 7th of that season against Pittsburgh in the Wild Card Playoff Game.

In arguably one of the greatest pitching performances in team history, Arrieta went the distance, shutting out the Pirates on five hits while striking out 11 in a 4-0 Cubs' victory that sent them to the NLDS. The win returned the team to the upper echelon of the National League where they remain to this day.

His 18-8 record and 3.10 ERA helped the Cubs to 103 wins in 2016 and Arrieta's victories in Game 2 and 6 of the World Series were part of the team's first championship in 108 years. He followed that up with a 14-10 record in 2017, with his last game with the team helping to save the season in the NLCS against the Dodgers.

On October 18th, Arrieta threw 6 1/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits while striking out nine in a 3-2 win over the Dodgers.

Hard feelings still exist a bit due to the pitcher's exit, one which the team gave Arreita a "Take it or Leave It Deal" instead of negotiating with him. But for a few days, those feelings tend to fade away as fans welcome back one of their best pitchers in recent memory, remembering all the good that happened at the Friendly Confines.