By Adam Hoge—
MESA, Ariz. (CBS) – Jeff Samardzija got the message.
After the right-hander gave up seven earned runs in just four innings his last time out, Cubs manager Dale Sveum made it clear Wednesday morning that Samardzija’s outing would have an impact on whether or not he makes the rotation.
Samardzija responded by throwing six scoreless innings in which he only allowed three hits and one walk while striking out five as the Cubs beat the Indians 2-0.
“I think in that last start I was cruising through the whole spring, feeling great and I think I just let that get to my head a little bit and just trying to throw instead of making good pitches,” Samardzija said Wednesday. “And today I kind of slowed myself down, stepped off a couple times, took a deep breath and really threw the pitch that me and Gio thought was the best pitch.”
With the strong outing, Samardzija has likely supplanted himself in the rotation, but Sveum will sit down Wednesday evening with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to make final roster decisions.
Overall, Samardzija has had what he calls his best spring as a Cub. He’s allowed 10 earned runs in 20 innings of work, but seven of those runs came in one outing.
“I feel pretty good,” he said when asked about his chances to make the rotation. “Just looking at my camp as a whole … yeah, I feel great. We’ll see what happens, but I’m really not too worried about it.”
As an added bonus, Samardzija legged out a leadoff triple during the game, something he thinks adds to his value as a starter.
“That’s why I wanted to start,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been preaching for years now. I want to be an athlete, I want to hit, I want to run the bases, I want to field my position. So to put it on paper and show that I can do it, it means a lot to me.”
Samardzija got a little bit of help from the Cleveland defense on his triple, but he showed that his speed from his days as a wide receiver at Notre Dame is still there.
“I might not have the recovery as quick, but I don’t think you have to run another triple after you run a triple,” he said. “But yeah, (the speed is) still there.”
Unfortunately, the Cubs stranded Samardzija at third base.
Also up for debate in the meeting will be the final two bullpen spots and the back-up catcher position.
Rafael Dolis helped his case for making the team by pitching a scoreless ninth inning to get his third save of the spring. He did, however, walk two batters in the inning to make it tougher on himself.
Carlos Marmol walked one in a scoreless seventh inning, while James Russell allowed two hits in the eighth, but got out of the jam.