As the Chicago Cubs have gone through a cavalcade of young options in their bullpen in the last couple of months, questions have popped up as to why former top Cubs pitching prospect Jeff Samardzija was not getting a look. After all, he had some success in the Cubs pen in late 2008, even if he was a disaster there in 2009. Indeed that 2009 season was a rough one for Samardzija, who bounced from the rotation to the pen, from Chicago to Iowa and back. It was probably no surprise that, when he was given a shot to make the Cubs rotation in Spring Training, he flopped. He lasted just a few weeks in the Cubs’ pen before being sent down to Iowa.
But as the 2010 season went on, things changed. Samardzija was dominating in AAA Iowa, and had added a successful cutter to his repertoire. Why wasn’t he on the list of young pitchers to get a shot this year?
Because he asked to stay at Iowa.
“When I first got sent down, I was (ticked),” he admitted earlier this week. “I came and grabbed the ball and was letting a lot of emotions out. I talked to Mase (Iowa pitching coach Mike Mason) a lot about, ‘Where do we start? Where do we go from here?’ I was just trying to find an identity. We worked a couple different pitches in that we’ve been throwing, and that helped out a lot.
“I came down here, cleared the slate, pitched in relief. I pitched strictly out of the stretch for probably a month in relief. I tell you what, it paid dividends, especially as a starter. You have something to lean back on when a guy gets on base.”
Although he watched as other pitchers got the call to Wrigley Field, Samardzija wanted to avoid a situation like last year, when he had three separate stints with the Cubs.
“I talked to Jim, and I talked to everybody,” he said, referring to general manager Jim Hendry. “We didn’t want to do what we did last year. We didn’t want to go up and down. We didn’t want it to be a roller-coaster ride. Are we paying for it a little now? Absolutely.
“I didn’t have plans of just pitching for the Cubs for a year or two years. For me, this is a long-term decision, and there’s no other place that I want to be – ever – to tell you the truth. You take your licks now, and you learn from them.” Daily Herald.
I don’t know about you, but that’s a huge revelation for me. Not only because it explains why we haven’t seen Samardzija (but have seen Mateo, Stevens, Parker, Maine, Atkins, Coleman, Diamond… the list goes on) this year, but also because it shows a tremendous and profound change in Samardzija’s attitude and maturity.
Recall, this was a kid that, not but a few months ago, was stewing that his near 15.00 Spring ERA didn’t win him a spot in the rotation (contrast that with Sean Marshall, who dominated in ST, and still wound up in the bullpen – and took it like the consummate professional he is, and ran with it). Now, Samardzija recognizes that if he’s going to make it in the bigs, he needs time to develop his craft.
Hopefully Samardzija’s request to not be shuffled between starting in Iowa and relieving in Chicago will prove beneficial to both him and the Cubs in 2011. It certainly sounds like, if nothing else, his attitude is improved.