As we discussed yesterday, when Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella has decided one of his players is no longer a good fit, that player is playing on borrowed time.
This time, it’s Jeff Samardzija who got the boot. Fortunately for the Cubs, it didn’t require releasing or trading Samardzija; instead he’ll simply head to AAA Iowa. Samardzija’s replacement is Jim Hendry’s bizarre object of obsession: the old and oft-injured Chad Fox.
“We’ll pitch him in that sixth-, seventh-inning role,” manager Lou Piniella said. “We’re pretty young in that bullpen. Having a veteran pitcher out there certainly helps. Fox threw the ball fairly well this spring. The important thing with him is staying healthy.”
Fox injured his pitching elbow after playing 11 games with the Cubs in 2005. He underwent surgery and missed the entire 2006 and 2007 seasons. Working as the closer for Iowa this season, he was 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA and two saves in 11 games. He struck out 10 and walked three. cubs.com.
Over/under on Chad Fox pitches before elbow explosion: four.
As for Samardzija, the writing was on the wall two days ago when Lou was making comments like this:
‘‘He needs to work on his second and third pitches. It’s hard to pitch up here with a fastball only.’’
‘‘You have to get people off your fastball, whether it’s Samardzija or anybody else. Any pitcher at the big-league level needs to have a second and third pitch that they can rely on and get people off the other pitches. You have to throw awfully hard and locate the ball awfully well just to count on one pitch being your dominant pitch.’’
And so ended Samardzija’s second ML-stint.
In fairness to Samardzija, there was probably some disappointment in being called up after starting in Iowa, only to be buried in the Cubs bullpen. Samardzija has made no bones about his desire to be a starter at the Major League level, so when Carlos Zambrano went down, and Samardzija wasn’t even considered to fill in, he was probably a bit miffed.
Piniella, who won’t hate Samardzija forever, acknowledged that the moves were probably tough on the kid:
“In fairness to the kid, he started down there [in the Minors] and we then put him in the bullpen,” Piniella said. “It’s probably not the easiest transition. It’s a different mentality. He needs to work on his secondary pitches and keeping his fastball down more.”
Naturally, he had to get the small dig in there at the end. “It was really tough on him, it’s not an easy transition, oh and by the way, you’re getting sent down because you couldn’t hack it yet.”