By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) — The Chicago Cubs’ top starter was under the microscope again on Saturday evening as he pitched for possibly the last time as a home player at Wrigley Field.
Jeff Samardzija and his teammates begin an eleven day, three city road trip on Monday. The Cubs do not return to Wrigley until July 11 for a three game series before the All Star break.
With chance of a trade becoming more realistic every day, Samardzija is scheduled to pitch July 5 against Washington and July 10 in Cincinnati. That information is based on the rotation staying true to the five man order that the starter are on right now.
The Northwest Indiana native’s next Wrigley outing would most likely be July 24 against San Diego if he has not been traded. The Cubs take the All Star break after three home games that Samardzija would miss July 11-13. The team begins the second half in Arizona and then returns to Chicago July 22.
Scouts from the American League East were most prevalent during the Cubs’ 10 game home stand completed with a day-night doubleheader Saturday. Teams are very interested in both Samardzija and teammate Jason Hammel. The Yankees had two scouts watching both pitchers throw twice, as did the Blue Jays who had two different scouts split up the starts. Seattle had top talent evaluator Ted Simmons on hand to watch the Cubs over the weekend.
One source told me that the Cubs are asking for a top three organization prospect in exchange for Hammel from his club.
“As you look at pitchers before the trade deadline, you only consider guys you project who can pitch in the first three games of the playoffs,” said one of the games top scouts. “I look at the Cubs, Hammel could start the third game, Samardzija the first game for any contending club. You have to believe these guys are better than your 4th and 5th starters or you have no business making a deal. You can find four’s and five’s in your own system.”
With a 26-29 career mark and a 3.77 ERA, Samardzija is looking for a contract that will project present value of his number one status beyond his past numbers. The 29-year-old pitcher was held captive in the bullpen by former manager Lou Pinella, who wanted a power arm in his pen during the team’s playoff run of 2008 and again 2009. Samardzija did not return to starting again until 2012, except for 15 starts made at the end of 2010 at Iowa.
The Cub starter gave up four runs in the fifth inning after a 55 minute rain delay, three of which were earned. He was taken out for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the fifth.
“ I think you saw them being aggressive early in the count,” Samardzija said after his seventh loss. “My pitch count was down and I think they knew I would be throwing fastballs. I need to mix it up and start early with some sliders. When you are pitching to contact, that is kind of the dice you are rolling.”
The Cubs have scored two runs or less in in eleven of his seventeen starts.