Jeff Samardzija Wants To Be A Starter
Ever since Jeff Samardzija made his major league debut in 2008, there has been no confusion on that role that Samardzija would ideally want on the Cubs’ pitching staff. In what is becoming a theme for every Spring Training that Samardzija is participating in, the 27 year old pitcher once again is focused solely on making the Cubs’ starting rotation. This type of mentality from Samardzija may have lead to some discomfort between himself and members of the previous front office regime. It is believed that former front office frowned upon Samardzija’s sense of entitlement when it came to his chances of making the starting rotation. To Samardzija’s credit, former managers Lou Piniella and Mike Quade did not help ease the tension as both managers mentioned Samardzija as a rotation candidate even though the former Notre Dame star was viewed as long-shot for making the rotation.
But with the previous front office a thing of the past, and a new manager in Dale Sveum that brought with him a new pitching coach in Chris Bosio; this may finally be the year that Samardzija earns a spot in the rotation.
With the change in the front office and on the coaching staff, this Spring Training will be like no Spring Training the Cubs have had before. Already we have heard reports that the coaching staff has painted areas on the bases where they want the runners to touch as well as having a piece a string at knee-level in the strike-zone in order to help the pitching staff attack the lower-half of the zone.
There is also another change that will be implemented this Spring Training. It is a change that may go unnoticed but will have a major impact on the mentality of the players during Spring Training. Gone with the former front office regime is the idea that any one player can earn a particular spot without even performing during Spring Training. This philosophy may be what kept Samardzija from ever breaking camp as a member of the Cubs’ starting rotation. Whether it was Andrew Cashner or Carlos Silva, previous Spring Trainings featured competitions for starting rotation spots that were already decided before the team’s first cactus league game.
This means that Randy Wells, Chris Volstad, Travis Wood, Andy Sonnanstine, and Samardzija will all have an equal chance to make the the Cubs’ starting rotation. There are two open spots in the Cubs’ rotation behind Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, and Paul Maholm. While the Cubs did trade for Wood and Volstad this off-season, both pitchers are capable of being swing-men for the Cubs this season while pitching out of the bullpen. Not to mention that Wells, Volstad, and Wood all have minor league options left in their contract.
Samardzija, who is out of minor league options, is determined to land a rotation spot this Spring. Samardzija told reporters today that he is not even focusing on the idea of being a reliever for the Cubs this season. Instead, Samardzija has spent the past four months in Arizona conditioning as if he is going to be a starting pitcher this season.
It is hard to tell who the favorites are to win the final two spots in the Cubs’ rotation, but logic would suggest that Wells and Volstad may be the early front-runners, with Samardzija and Wood pitching out of the bullpen. Though if Samardzija pitches on the same level this Spring that he did during the 2011 season when he posted a 2.97 ERA in 75 appearances, then he may be the sleeper pick for a rotation spot.
Samardzija pitching out of the bullpen is not necessarily a bad idea either. After all, Samardzija would likely see an increased role in the bullpen this season. If Carlos Marmol falters at some point this season, Samardzija would be a likely candidate to replaced Marmol as the Cubs’ closer. But in any event, a motivated Samardzija will only benefit the Cubs’ pitching staff in 2012.