Jeff Samardzija has made no secret of his desire to be a starting pitcher with the Chicago Cubs. Year after year, Samardzija openly hopes for an opportunity to start – some years, in the minors, mostly, he gets the chance, some years he doesn’t. When he was a bit younger, it would have been fair to describe his desire and resulting attitude as petulant.
But, in 2011, if not before, Samardzija took to his role in the bullpen, both attitudinally and in performance. Perhaps more impressively, Samardzija got better and better as the year went on. In total, he threw 88 innings with a 2.97 ERA and a 1.295 WHIP, striking out 87, which is excellent. But in the second half, his ERA was a scant 2.23, and the WHIP dropped to 1.156, primarily because he stopped walking guys.
And now, as Theo and Jed have said, Samardzija – who has been working hard at Camp Bussy this Winter – will be stretched out this Spring to have a chance to start in 2012.
“That’s all I asked for when I sat down with Theo and Dale,” Samardzija said to Bruce Levine about the chance to start this year. “I told them I am very confident, and that my command and slider control are where they need to be in order to be successful as a starter. With an opportunity, I am sure I can handle it from there.”
Samardzija is excited about the direction of the franchise, and looks forward to being a part of the change.
“Right now I am doing what I need to in order to be ready for Spring Training,” Samardzija said. “So far the feeling I get is these new people have a plan and they are sticking to. That is exciting to me. They have a plan and are not running around like chickens with their heads chopped off. It is good to see they are building a strong foundation and going from there.”
Samardzija will compete with a number of others vying for spots in an already-tight rotation. Among the starting options, before Samardzija enters the fray, are Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Travis Wood, Paul Maholm, Chris Volstad, Casey Coleman, Rodrigo Lopez, and Andy Sonnanstine.
If one the NL East’s top talent evaluator’s is right, Samardzija could elbow his way in:
“He was the most improved pitcher I saw from April till September last year,” the scout said. “His mound presence and breaking ball are top drawer. The guy looked as good as any young relief pitcher in the game.”
I don’t know why Samardzija got such a bad rap last year, when he was actually quite good. He could be even better in 2012.