Jeff Samardzija is the Cubs’ Opening Day Starter and Other Bullets

Jeff Samardzija is Inigo MontoyaThe World Baseball Classic is underway, but it isn’t drawing huge crowds everywhere. Baseball America’s Ben Badler noted the extraordinarily sparse attendance in Fukuoka, Japan for the Cuba/China match-up. And the 86 folks in attendance didn’t exactly get their money’s worth – Cuba mercy ruled China in six and a half innings, winning 12-0. At least scouts were probably excited to see the Cuban team. No word of any defections yet, which is always something that could pop up during an international tournament.

  • As expected, Jeff Samardzija has been named the Cubs’ Opening Day starter. Although it was a three-horse race between Samardzija, Matt Garza, and Edwin Jackson, it kind of always seemed like it was going to be Samardzija. Garza’s been hurt, and Jackson’s the new guy. With Garza now set to start the season on the disabled list, the time to name Samardzija the Opening Day starter seemed obvious. Samardzija was dominant for the Cubs in 2012 (save for June, when he experimented with a curveball), his first full season as a starter on the big team, and the Opening Day nod is both a reward and a reflection of his status with the team. This time last year, Samardzija was ostensibly fighting for a rotation spot, and many wondered if the Cubs were crazy for putting him back in the rotation after he’d finally found some success as a reliever. Good move. What would you have thought last March if you’d been told Samardzija was going to be the Opening Day starter in 2013? Well, other than, “holy crap, the Cubs must be terrible on paper and decimated by injuries,” which isn’t entirely untrue …
  • Starlin Castro was able to take batting practice this weekend as he recovers from his hamstring inflammation. His injury seems like a convenient excuse to get him some extra rest before the long season starts (and to see other players in action), rather than an ongoing and suddenly worsening problem.
  • Ian Stewart, on the other hand, is obviously legitimately injured. The mildly strained quad, which became a mildly-to-moderately strained quad, had prevented Stewart from even swinging a bat until a cage session late yesterday. He suffered the injury back on February 21, and may not be ready for game action for another couple weeks, leaving him just two weeks to prove himself before the season starts. If Stewart is healthy, I still suspect the Cubs won’t cut him just to save $1.5 million-ish (his potential upside as a trade piece, however unlikely, is still high enough that it’s worth the money, especially when you consider the uber-weak third base situation around baseball right now).
  • Stewart is frustrated by the injury, as you might expect. “It is very frustrating,” Stewart said about being sidelined, per Carrie Muskat. “I worked hard this offseason, spent a lot of time away from my family this offseason, going back and forth from California to North Carolina. It is tough and I guess the only positive is that the season is six and hopefully seven months long. If you’re going to be hurt this time of year, and not something to take you away from meaningful games in the middle or latter part of the season. Hopefully, it won’t be too much longer.”
  • Patrick Mooney on the Theo Epstein-Terry Francona relationship, and on the managerial search that brought the Cubs Dale Sveum instead of Francona.
  • Keep your eyes open for some prospecting goodness around here starting tomorrow, when Luke begins to unveil his top Cubs prospect list … and it’s a whopper.

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

57 responses to “Jeff Samardzija is the Cubs’ Opening Day Starter and Other Bullets”

  1. Stevie B

    I had a Whopper about 2 months ago. I had been drinking and had the serious munchies. I’m somewhat of a healthy eater and BK is not a healthy choice….and then BAM….its Whopper time.
    It was sinfully delicious….

    1. Seth

      You can’t go wrong with a whopper every once in awhile.

    2. Deez

      Don’t know who goes out West but an In-N-Out Burger is the heat!

      1. Dude

        I’m going to Las Vegas for the first time in less than a week. I’m just as excited to try In-N-Out for the first time as I am about all the other shenanigans Vegas offers.

        1. Jeff

          Shut-up!!! Making me hungry :)

  2. Marc N.

    Pretty excited for the top prospect list.

    Congrats to Samardzija. He earned it.

    Matt Garza continues to screw this franchise out of prospects.

    Rest is probably a good thing for Castro.

    I am frustrated by Stewart. All I ask is some defense and some HRs.

    1. Peter

      You hit it right on the head, I hate garza.

      1. Boogens

        I don’t hate him but I am really sick of hearing about him. I would prefer that the next time I hear about him is when he is traded. I just can’t see signing an extension with this guy.

        1. Peter

          That’s the way I feel, unfortunately, I don’t think we will get much for him. Injured too much, and not that great to begin with. Definitely a bad trade on our end.

          1. Jimmy James

            I am all for extension if the price is reasonable….when healthy he is a legit two and there won’t be many of his caliber available in free agency…..though obviously the f.o. Will take health into consideration

  3. JR

    Shark deserves the nod. Congrats to him. I could see that guy be amazing this year!

  4. Kevin

    Unwritten rule – don’t ever discuss the upcoming draft (like it really has an impact).

    1. hansman1982

      Apparently it is unwritten because it actually isnt a rule?

      1. Kevin

        but nobody ever responds to draft questions

        1. Cedlandrum

          What’s your question? did i miss it?

  5. CubFan Paul

    Another reason to ink Samardzija to an extension before April. Wrapping up talks before the season eliminates unnecessary stress to the now new de facto Ace.

    Any contract is capped at $55M (Matt Harrison’s 5yr/$55M), so that part is done.

    1. terencem

      Samardzija isn’t going to sign an extension yet unless the Cubs rain money down on him. He already turned them down last month.

      1. CubFan Paul

        Yeah, that makes sense.

  6. Dan

    Like a day after the whole world knew Jeff was named the opening day stater Brett finally has a post on it? Maybe Brett should hire someone else to help write posts when he is unavailable. Caugh caugh myself

    1. preacherman86

      dude welcomed a child to the world man, I could wait until April for a post on the opening day starter, it could end up being Feldman at the rate we are losing guys! So far as you writing posts, “cough cough”, gotta be able to spell cough first, unless it was caw or calf you were going for…sorry for the harsh vibes, but bro let a man father a child for a bit – this is non-news anyways.

      1. cjdubbya

        AND…lost his grandfather on the same day (condolences, my friend). Cut the guy some slack.

    2. Cubbie Blues

      This%20must%20be%20where%20the%20action%20is.png

  7. jim

    LET;S face it. The CUBS aren’t going ANYWHERE!
    thusAs far as this teams “inability” to stay healthy, some of
    these problems can be attributed to “conditioning.
    DON’T look for many more victories this year.
    P.S. IS IT ALMOST TIME FOR COLLEGE FOOTBALL?

    GO IRISH!

  8. Cub Fan Dan

    I dont think I’ll ever get enough of the Inigo Montoya-Jeff Samardzija pic. It came out on the cover on this months Vine Line & I have to keep it face down on the coffee table to keep from cracking up & to keep my wife from being disgusted.

  9. Idaho Razorback

    Dan…you’re a looser. Brett was at a funeral yesterday. He lost his grandfather. LOOSER DAN

    1. Smitty

      Idaho, it is loser…not looser.

      1. DarthHater

        haha,funny,idiot,morons,sign,stupid-ebf1a1035c859e5653786f1acb1e73e3_h.jpg

  10. cub2014

    What is the lowdown on Struck? Velocity, pitch type.
    I know he has had really good minor league numbers
    last 2 years.

    1. Cedlandrum

      Here is the scouting report that Vine Line had. I think it is pretty accurate. http://vineline.mlblogs.com/2013/01/24/prospectus-preview-close-to-the-majors-nick-struck/

      Here is what i would add. Struck isn’t afraid of going at guys. When he had his 2011 promotion to Iowa I didn’t think he belonged, but he still competed hard and wasn’t afraid to attack hitters. I wouldn’t say he is short on stuff, he has good enough stuff, but he won’t be an elite pitcher. He has a ceiling as a number 4 maybe. 3 if he is super lucky.

      1. Die hard

        Same scouting report as was on Greg Maddux

        1. DocPeterWimsey

          Hardly: despite the myth that Maddux was some unheralded guy without raw “stuff,” Maddux actually was a 2nd-round pick who shot through the minors and who was already pegged as a potential ace by scouts at the age of 19. When Maddux came up in 1986 (at 20 years and about 2 months of age), a lot of people said pay attention: with only a little luck, this guy could be really, really good.

          This Struck guy is already 23 and already has the label not having “big stuff,” whereas the 19 year old Maddux was touted for a plus fastball and great ability to change speed and hit spots.

          People really need to get over mythical Greg Maddux and remember the real one.

          1. Jeff

            One thing about Maddux: He never ever had a lat strain in his career!!!

            1. JR

              Ha.. Exactly. Maddux was like 40% body fat too. The biggest problem with a lot of the players today is that they get too muscular. You didn’t hear of lat strains 20 years ago much.

              1. cubchymyst

                too muscular? I don’t think that is a problem. There are plenty of examples of people who are muscular and maintain a lot of flexibility.

                1. JR

                  Yeah I don’t know man. But I am pretty sure there weren’t many lat strains at all before weights became such a big part of sports. Not saying players shouldn’t work out, but just a thought.

                2. DocPeterWimsey

                  Sure, gymnasts and ballet dancers manage that. However, 1) these present is a strong selective gradient weeding out all but the most flexible athletes, and, 2) what these guys do to ligaments, tendons, etc., (probably) to achieve that flexibility would destroy their ability to do things like pitch.

            2. DocPeterWimsey

              Actually, Maddux pitched for much of his career with a gimpy hamstring. However, he and Bobby Cox were smart enough to get him out of games whenever it started to act up: the loss of a couple of innings today was not worth the loss of many innings over a couple of months.

              That said, you guys are probably right: the non-stop workouts and exercises (and supplements!) probably make guys *more* susceptible to certain kinds of injuries than they used to be. People confuse being “in shape” with being “injury resistant”: but that’s really untrue.

        2. Cubbie Blues

          “Struck provides starting depth, though his best role may be as a swingman who can spot start or eat a couple of innings at a time from the bullpen.”
          They sure got that one wrong with Maddux then.

  11. Le Cubs

    I know it’s a pipe dream but if David Price reaches free agency can you see the Cubs making a play? I think if Shark keeps moving forward and they get Price you could have a solid lefty righty duo that are right around the same age as your 1 and 2. Like I said a pipe dream but hell anything can happen right.

    1. Jono

      nothing wrong with pipe dreams in march

  12. MightyBear

    I believe if Price reaches FA, the Cubs will be in on him. However, so will a lot of other teams including the hated Dodgers.

    1. Le Cubs

      I mean this front office is not dumb and know they will need to make a splash on free age xt soon. In my humble opinion I see no better way.