Where are they now? Checking in on former Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Brian D. Kersey/Getty Images)
Jeff Samardzija / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Brian D. Kersey/Getty Images) /
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Jeff Samardzija / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

For some time, Jeff Samardzija anchored the Cubs starting rotation. Now 35 years of age, the big right-hander is still chugging along out on the west coast.

The Cubs selected former University of Notre Dame football standout Jeff Samardzija in the fifth round of the 2006 MLB Draft knowing, if nothing else, they were getting an elite athlete. After all, he had toyed with the idea of being a two-sport professional athlete – but quickly decided to focus his efforts on his baseball career instead.

Just over two years later, Samardzija made his big league debut at Wrigley Field. It was a forgettable one, with him blowing a one-run lead in an eventual 3-2 loss to the Marlins. But from there, he turned in an impressive rookie campaign out of the Cubs bullpen, making 26 relief appearances and working to a 2.28 ERA. Control was an issue – but there was definite promise.

In 2009 and 2010, it was a lot of back-and-forth between Chicago and Des Moines for the young hurler. It’s not hard to see why, either. Across the two seasons, Samardzija limped to a 7.83 ERA and 1.889 WHIP in 54 innings of work. His strikeout numbers plummeted and he was walking nearly a half-dozen free passes per nine. But he kept grinding – and started to see dividends.

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