Yesterday, Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella announced the back-end of the rotation – Carlos Silva and Tom Gorzelanny – which also meant that he was announcing that Jeff Samardzija and Sean Marshall would start the year in the bullpen. And for Samardzija, who has said repeatedly that he wants to start, it was a bitter pill.
Samardzija, the former Notre Dame football star, said he understood the decision and accepted it — but not before telling manager Lou Piniella he disagreed and thought he should be starting.
”Trust me, I’m just a competitive guy,” Samardzija said, ”and when we talk about starting and everything, a lot of it has to do with me just being a competitive guy. And I get my mind set on things, and there’s certain things I want to do. But you’ve got to be like that. If you don’t have that edge in professional sports and have an idea where you want to be, things are going to slip by, and that’s the last thing I want.” CHICAGO SUN-TIMES.
The truth is, Samardzija should just be happy he made the Cubs at all. It would have been a completely reasonable decision to send Samardzija – who had a 6.00 ERA in 9 Spring innings, while giving up an atrocious 16 baserunners in that span – down to Iowa to keep working.
To his credit, Samardzija collected himself, and managed to spout the company line through what may have been gritted teeth.
”[Piniella and I] talked about it, and just like any conversation goes, there’s one side and there’s another side,” Samardzija said. ”Ultimately, you’ve got to have one part where you come back to, and for us it was pretty easy, what he asked me to do for this team. And I’ve always had the same approach. I just want to win games. And he felt that would be the best way for me to help this team, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
Hopefully Samardzija sticks to that view, and dedicates himself to being the best reliever he can be. His reaction, of course, is strongly contrasted with that of Sean Marshall – a guy who outpitched every single starting pitcher in camp – who is continually gracious in landing in the bullpen. When he says that he just wants to do what’s best for the Cubs and helps the team win, I believe it. Samardzija could probably learn a thing or two from Marshall.
I certainly hope that there isn’t an entitlement issue with Samardzija – who received a big money, Major League contract when he was drafted by the Cubs. Surely, there were expectations placed on him at that point that were probably unfair, but you can imagine how it could lead to a kid thinking he was supposed run before he’d crawled. It must be said that Samardzija always seems like a nice guy and a team player in every interview you hear. He’s doubtless just a competitive guy who really wants to start.
But you’re a reliever now, Jeff, and the Cubs desperately need you to be a good one.