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With expanded rosters, the Cubs are going to be seeing a lot of familiar faces. Just in time for college football season.

That was supposed to be some kind of Jeff Samardzija quip. But it failed. Grumble. He’s going to be coming back is all I’m saying.

Mark Riggins, the Cubs’ Minor League pitching coordinator, has watched Samardzija and sees the right-hander making progress. In August, Samardzija was 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA in three starts, striking out 13 over 14 innings. In his last outing Friday against Oklahoma City, he struck out six over six scoreless innings, giving up three hits.

Riggins connected with Samardzija when he was sent down to the Minors after appearing in 17 games with the Cubs.

“He’s looking really good, he’s on top of the ball very well, his arm slot is up,” Riggins said of the young right-hander. “He’s commanding the ball a lot better. It’s a plan that Larry [Rothschild, Cubs pitching coach] put in place that we carried out.” cubs.com.

Despite his poor performance with the Cubs, there is no doubt that Samardzija has a tremendous amount of talent. He will be a pitcher at the big league level, but how good, and in what role, remain to be seen.

For his part, Samardzija apparently wants to be a starter.

“Some guys are built to be starters, some guys are built to be relievers,” Riggins said. “I think Jeff prefers [starting]. At the big league level, you’ll do whatever it takes to help the team win. He does like starting, and he’s more comfortable preparing for a start.

“He wants to be good, and the more time he can get to work on things, the more time and preparation, it helps him become a better pitcher.”

Samardzija, a fifth-round pick in the 2006 Draft, did get his first big league start this year on Aug. 12 against Philadelphia, but it wasn’t memorable. He gave up seven runs on eight hits over 3 1/3 innings.

“He wants to be right when he does [get to the big leagues],” Riggins said. “I’ve been through this before with very good pitchers who come to the big leagues. It’s a time of adjustment.

“He doesn’t want to go out there and embarrass himself or lose games for the Cubs, he wants to win games for the Cubs. He wants to perfect everything. He doesn’t have that many innings professionally, and he has a huge amount of talent. Now it’s just a matter of him harnessing that and getting comfortable and feeling like he can win, instead of just going out and pitching.”

If the Cubs do not re-sign Rich Harden, there will be plenty of opportunities for starts next year for Samardzija. He’s just got to prove he’s ready.

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