By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) Cubs manager Rick Renteria on Friday named right-hander Jeff Samardzija the team’s Opening day starter in Pittsburgh on March 31. Travis Wood will be Chicago’s No. 2 starter, while Edwin Jackson is penciled in to take the third start.
That leaves newcomer Jason Hammel as the possible starter for the home opener on April 4.
Renteria wouldn’t absolutely commit to Jackson or Hammel in their slots as of yet.
“All the guys have been working really hard,” Renteria said. “They have all been getting after it. Jeff has done it before. He put in a very strong year like (Travis Wood ) did. I think the decision was quiet easy for all of us.”
Samardzija has had tough negotiations with the team on a long-term contract and has been the center of many rumors and some trade talk conversations over the past five months. Some believe if he does not sign a deal by Opening Day, he will be traded by July 31.
The Cub starter can become a free agent after this season. Samardzija will be making his second straight Opening Day start for the Cubs. He pitched eight innings of two-hit ball and allowed one run in defeating Pittsburg to open last year.
With record cold in the Midwest and East this winter, the chance of cold and precipitation loom large when Samardzija takes the hill against the Pirates, but he’s not worried.
“Hey, you know the game must go on,” Samardzija said before recalling his upbringing in Indiana. “It will be like high school when Valparaiso High school played the Michigan City Mud Dogs. We had snow coming .You just get ready to pitch, and that’s it.”
The last Cub to make back-to-back opening day starts was Ryan Dempster in 2011 and 2012 . Prior to that, Carlos Zambrano made six consecutive Opening Day starts from 2005-’10.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.