By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) After a tuneup against the Diamondbacks on Wednesday in which he allowed two runs in three innings, Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija — the subject of trade rumors as he and the club have failed to reach a long-term contract — was in no mood to talk about his future with the team. A handful of teams, including the Blue Jays, have sent scouts to watch Samardzija this spring and will keep an eye on him as the season starts.
“No comment,” Samardzija said when the topic of a contract extension was raised, keeping with his earlier proclamation that we wouldn’t let it be a distraction by continuously talking about it.
More to the moment, Samardzija pronounced himself ready for his Opening Day start Monday in Pittsburgh.
“I was working on my fastball and fastball location,” he said of his tune-up.
Samardzija’s spring numbers were of no meaning to the pitcher as he worked on his stuff and stamina all spring. Looking forward ,the ace of the Cub staff wants to improve on his 2013 season in which he had a 4.34 ERA.
“There are some obvious areas I can improve ” he said. “I just want to stay healthy and stay strong. My job is to keep the team in 32 games and give hem a chance to win.”
Opening the year in cold-weather cities for the first three weeks is nothing new for the pitcher and his teammates.
“We open up pretty much like last season,” Samardzija said. “We opened up last year with the Pirates and the Reds a lot. It is a tough schedule, but everybody eventually plays the tough teams, so the schedule doesn’t really matter. You just have to come out and things usually takes care of itself.”
Samardzija likes what he sees from the team that has been assembled this season.
“We have put a great little crew together,” he said. “The entirety of the team came in and worked — they have been hungry … Lots of good things can happen, you always got to stay in it and keep fighting.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.