Jeff Samardzija’s Role Will Be One of the Big Spring Training Questions

The Chicago Cubs suggested that Jeff Samardzija, who was coming off a successful season in the bullpen, would prepare for 2012 as a starter as far back as November. So, preparing to be a starter is just what Samardzija did. All Winter.

But by the time February rolled around, he was facing a rotation competition that featured no fewer than six competitors probably ahead of him in the pecking order. Given that the Cubs are still full-up with starters, is it really the best plan to let Samardzija start this Spring? Or should he be refining his work out of the pen?

From Cubs.com:

“That’s going to be the million-dollar question in Spring Training,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said on Thursday. “Against live hitters [on Thursday], he threw the heck out of the ball and had great command, which he has every time. It’s going to be an interesting decision later this month.” …

“I wanted to carry that momentum I had at the end of the year last year into this year,” [Samardzija] said. “I think I’ve done that. I’m very happy with how I threw today. I’m really champing at the bit to get these games going.”

The difference is that Samardzija’s command is better, and he’s more aggressive with his command.

“I started bringing my cutter back in that I had two years ago when I was starting [at Triple-A] Iowa,” Samardzija said. “It’s understanding that, as a starter, I want these guys to put my ball in play early and I want to pitch deep in games. An emphasis on command. As a reliever, you come in and you can throw as hard as you want and get away with that. But as a starter, I want low effort and get a lot of action early in the count.”

There’s no questioning that a successful Samardzija starting is more valuable than a successful Samardzija relieving. The question, instead, is whether he can become a successful starter. Command, as he notes, is going to be one of the biggest issues for him. It’s not just a matter of cutting down on the walks, it’s a matter of controlling at bats, and putting himself in a position to pitch deep into the game.

Also, here’s a funny picture of Jeff Samardzija with a funny caption (let’s be honest, it’s the real reason this post exists – thanks to BN’er Josh for coming up with the caption first on the BN Facebook page):

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

23 responses to “Jeff Samardzija’s Role Will Be One of the Big Spring Training Questions”

  1. Brian

    As…….You………Wish…..

  2. Cliffy

    Brett, there some chatter on a Cleveland Indians blog that they may be interested in a trade for Marlon Byrd, because of Sizemore injury. If done it could push the Brett Jackson arrival timetable up.

    1. Cubbie Blues

      Not necessarily. We have Reed and Campana that could fill to keep Jackson’s service time where they want it to be.

    2. Luke

      Jackson needs at least half a season in Iowa. He’s almost ready, but there is literally no benefit to rushing him at this point. If Byrd is moved, it just means that both Sappelt and Campana can make the roster.

  3. SirCub

    Jeff must have so many great options for Halloween.

  4. HuskerCub

    Inconceivable!

    1. Pat

      I do not think that word means what you think it does.

  5. Wilbur

    Why do so many highly paid and successful athletes have bad facial hair and worse haircuts that only make them look like the guy behind the counter at the local video or convenience store? Do the ladies really dig that?

    As you might imagine I’m an old guy …

    1. TWC

      Hey, gramps!  Dudes with long hair are awesome!  It’s just how it goes, baby!

      Yeah, yeah, I’ll get off your lawn now.  Stop shaking that broom at me.

  6. Luke

    Ricketts on CNBC now.

    Edit:
    So far, nothing new. Have expectations, expect the team to play hard. Analytically, thinks baseball has a level playing field, no Moneyball advantages to speak of. Tickets sales going well. Thinks they will get Wrigley fixed up. The Cubs will be better this year and will keep getting better, but doesn’t want to get into saying anything like this is “the year”.

    In short, nothing new.

  7. Josh Reinhardt

    Hey Brett can I get a lil love for the making the original caption?

  8. baseballet

    Let’s say Shark dominates in ST and wins a starting job, then pitches terrific during the regular season (hey, it’s Spring Training – anything’s possible!). What is his contract situation? Would the Cubs have cheap control over their newfound starter for a few years?

    I love Samardzija’s swashbuckler mien! Much more interesting than Sveum’s slogan tattoo. Starting to look like a fun clubhouse. We need fun to get through this season.

  9. ferrets_bueller

    Samardizja, back in the bullpen?

    Inconceivable!!!!!

  10. ferrets_bueller

    The Cubs already have some R.O.U.S.’s, Barney and Campana.

  11. brittney

    I think jeff will have an ok ST but not one to put him in the starting rotation. In a year or 2 I can see him being our number 3 pitcher. But unless he has added another pitxh or 2 and developed them very well along with his command I think he will be our number 1 guy in the pen this year. But by the time this team is starting its contending he will be in the rotation. I’m not downing him one bit. I was very happy when he chose the cubs and baseball but just needs a little bit more time to add a pitch or two and perfect it.

    P.S. great picture and caption!

  12. die hard

    if he doesnt crack starting staff, with his arm he would make heckuva right fielder. I believe he hit better than he pitched his last year in College:

    2006…. 4.33 8-2 15 15 0 0/0 0 97.2 101 51 47 37 61 24 2 3 426 .272

    1. Nomar's Left Glove

      I know that this is the reason why this guy says dumb stuff like this, but I can’t help myself. So, to all parties forced to read this for the millionth time, I had to, I’m sorry.

      Die hard,
      You are intellectually reprehensible. How could the shark play RF, you already have Castro pencilled in there. Maybe Jackson can develop quickly because they’ll need him to pitch, because Garza will be playing short and Dempster will be coaching third base.

  13. Peter O

    Not too worried about this whole Shark to start talk. Only way he does start is if he’s doing great at it this spring, and the only way he keeps starting is if he keeps pitching great. I’d love to have another good starting pitcher. I don’t think it’ll happen, but if it does that’s gravy in my book.

  14. cubsin

    Samardzija’s ceiling as a starting pitcher is a #2, or even a #1 on a bad team. I don’t think any of Wood, Wells, Vostad or Maholm have a ceiling nearly that high. So I’m definitely rooting for him to make the starting rotation