At the time of the 2010 Chicago Cubs Spring Training, there were no fewer than four guys competing for two back-end rotation spots: Tom Gorzelanny, Carlos Silva, Sean Marshall and Jeff Samardzija. Marshall pitched the best out of the group, but ended up in the bullpen. Silva and Gorzelanny won the rotation spots. Samardzija pitched the worst of the group, ended up in the bullpen, and groused about it.
This year, Samardzija is out of options, so it’s make-the-big-club-or-bust, and the competition for the starting rotation is much steeper: it’s Samardzija, Randy Wells, Carlos Silva, Andrew Cashner, Casey Coleman, Jay Jackson, and James Russell battling for two rotation spots (though one spot has been all but given to Andrew Cashner, and if the other spot doesn’t go to Randy Wells, then this organization is just f’d). Given those long odds, and his option situation, you’d think Samardzija would be singing all the right notes: I’m here to do what the Cubs want me to do, I just want to contribute to the team, etc., etc.
But unfortunately, he sounds a bit more like he did last year.
Samardzija sounded a bit like a guy with a chip on his shoulder at the Cubs’ recent fan convention. “You don’t want to sound selfish or anything, but I’ve really in the offseason just taken care of what I can take care of,” he said. “I’m sure the list is up to about seven or eight already, guys trying to start. The same song as it is every year.” Samardzija opened the 2010 season in the bullpen before being demoted to Class AAA Iowa, where he found his groove as a starter. Samardzija also might click better with new pitching coach Mark Riggins than he did with Larry Rothschild, who went to the Yankees. Riggins was the Cubs’ minor league pitching coordinator. Yahoo! Sports.
I suspect that, if he doesn’t make the rotation, Samardzija will, in fact, say all the right things this time around. Very few in baseball believe he’s got a future ahead of him as a starter at the ML level, and so the bullpen may be his best option. At some point, he’ll realize this, and he’ll put all of his focus into transitioning into an effective reliever.
At that point, the question becomes: is there even a spot for him in the bullpen? With Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood, and John Grabow locked into spots, and only two or three more to go to guys like Scott Maine or other youngsters, and the losers of the starting rotation competition, it’s going to be a battle just to win a spot in the bullpen.