On September 1, MLB teams can expand their active roster – usually limited to 25 players – to as many as 40 players; namely, the 40 guys on the 40-man roster. That makes September an interesting time, even for teams completely out of the playoff picture, as fans get to observe youngsters they’ll hopefully see contributing in the near future.
One such September call up is expected to be pitcher Jeff Samardzija. You remember Samardzija, right? He’s the guy who got a five-year, $10 million contract after the Cubs drafted him in the 5th round in 2006 – you know, $100k more than top pick and consensus stud Bryce Harper just got from the Nationals?
Samardzija, who opened the season in the major-league bullpen, has been pitching as a starter at Class AAA Iowa. On Monday, he improved to 10-2 with a 3.05 ERA as Iowa beat Fresno 5-3. He worked 6 innings, giving up 4 hits and 1 unearned run while walking one and striking out five.
The Cubs felt it was a solid outing, with Samardzija pitching at 95 mph and topping out at 98. He also has added a cutter to his repertoire.
“I would expect Jeff here soon,” manager Lou Piniella said. “I don’t make these decisions on who gets called up. But I would expect Jeff to be here. He’s had a really nice Triple-A season, and I’m sure he’s going to deserve this opportunity to come up here and pitch here.” Daily Herald.
Samardzija’s continued stay at AAA while guys like Thomas Diamond and Casey Coleman get shots in the rotation screams “doghouse,” as in, Samardzija is in Lou’s. Thus, color me unconvinced when Piniella says “I don’t make these decisions.” He certainly has plenty of input.
That’s not to say the decisions have been wrong – Samardzija has been tearing up AAA, but he proved last year and earlier this year that he simply did not have big league stuff. He had one decent pitch, and then a couple of crummy ones. Perhaps the Cubs wanted to let him start, and give him plenty of time to develop a truly effective second pitch – which, hopefully with this new cutter, he’s done.
Samardzija may not get a chance to start with the Cubs when he’s called up in September, but he’ll see some action. And then he’ll get a chance to crack the rotation in Spring Training again next year. Hopefully his arsenal, and his attitude, have improved by then.