Cubs

Levine: Samardzija Sets Routine Leading Up To Opening Day

Jeff Samardzija. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Jeff Samardzija. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Bruce Levine Bruce Levine
Bruce Levine covers both the Cubs and the White Sox for CBSChicago.co...
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By Bruce Levine-

(CBS) After throwing nearly 90 pitches Thursday, Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija said he feels ready for the Opening Day assignment he will take on March 31 in Pittsburgh.

“I felt good today,” Samardzija said Thursday. “We made a couple of minor adjustments, ball was down in the zone. I felt really good.”

Pitching in front of a record 15,243 people that included 25 scouts as he’s evaluated by other teams, Samardzija will back off next week and throw 50 to 60 pitches in his last spring training outing. He will then have five days off before his Opening Day start.

Striking out eight Thursday, the Cubs ace used his whole repertoire of pitches before leaving the game with one out in the sixth inning.

Olt starts at third base

On Thursday, Cubs third base hopeful Mike Olt played in his first Cactus League game at the hot corner this spring. Olt ,who has four home runs this spring, had only one defensive chance on a pop-up. He has been rehabbing a sore shoulder that he said happens to him every spring.

“It felt great to be out there,” Olt said after playing six inning. “I was a little rusty, but I was glad to get out there and test it out.”

Olt will take a day off and get another game at third base Saturday. He has made a late bid to be part of an early season platoon if his arm is deemed ready.

‘We need six or seven more’ Baezes

Shortstop phenom Javier Baez will be sent out to minor league camp sometime next week. Despite being the talk of the Cactus League, he will start the season as the shortstop at Triple-A Iowa. A determination will be made in May or June if he should switch to another position, most likely second base. Baez has five home runs in Cactus League play, and he’s penciled in to play against the White Sox today in Glendale.

“He is a heck of a player,” Samardzija said of Baez. “We don’t need just one Baez, we need six or seven more off them. That’s what this is all about. One is a start. As long as he keeps doing his thing, we expect big things out of him.”

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.