Not that the Cubs would wish failure on any of their players, but the team’s effort to push Jeff Samardzija to success this Spring has been obvious and, at times, painful. He regularly pitches the 9th inning of Spring Training games, where he faces a cadre of minor leaguers, and is subjected to little criticism when he struggles.
The latest example comes after this weekend’s effort against the White Sox, wherein Samardzija gave up three earned runs in the 9th – the only three runs the Sox scored.
Riggins also has seen positives from Jeff Samardzija, who is being considered for the bullpen. Samardzija did serve up a two-run homer in the ninth inning on Friday against the White Sox, but the Cubs held on for a 4-3 win.
“I was extremely happy with the way he threw yesterday,” Riggins said. “I don’t look at results. I’m looking at how he executed pitches. It was a complete turnaround from what he has been doing in the past. He got the ball down well, he threw some really good cutters and we’re bringing his split up more often. [Friday] to me was a positive day for him. The home run racked up the runs on him, but other than that one pitch, I thought he pitched really good.” cubs.com.
First off, I must concede – you never fully know what guys are doing in Spring Training. It’s easy to look at only the results and judge the player’s ability to contribute in the regular season. But often, the player has been instructed to work on specific things, and the staff is evaluating his performance not on the numbers, but on how he meets those expectations. Such may be the case with Samardzija.
That said, Jeff Samardzija has an 8.44 ERA this Spring. Results may not be everything, but when you’re struggling to get out minor leaguers, even if you’re working on your pitches, there is legitimate reason for concern. And when it’s obvious that the Cubs are desperately hoping you win a bullpen spot, that concern is all the more real.
Ultimately, the Cubs are in a tough spot of their own making: either Samardzija makes the team, is traded, or is released. Right now, none are palatable options (or, in the case of trading, realistic), and the only solution is for Samardzija to perform. The coaches can say all the right things about how good Samardzija looks, but given his track record and his Spring results, it’s hard to imagine another team wanting to use a 25-man roster spot on him.
So, at present, the team that will use a 25-man roster spot on him is the Cubs.