Results tagged ‘ Jeff Samardzija ’
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Jeff Samardzija came into Spring Training last season just looking for a spot in the rotation. He comes to Arizona this year as one of the best young arms in the game and a possible Opening Day starter. On Sunday, he’ll take the hill for the Cubs in their Cactus League home opener against the defending World Champion Giants.
That’s quite a transformation for the 6-foot-5 former Notre Dame wide receiver.
As absurd as it may sound, Samardzija—yes, former million-dollar draftee turned minor league bust turned major league reliever turned frequently brilliant starter Jeff Samardzija—may be ready to take yet another step in his unusual career arc and become the piece that every team desires, a true font-of-the-rotation ace.
“Jeff was the one [in our starting staff] who matured as a pitcher [last year],” said pitching coach Chris Bosio. “[He went] from a pretty good pitcher to I think in that top five, maybe top six category as far as starters in the National League. I thought he had a very nice season, but we’re expecting bigger and better things out of Samardzija this year.”
That’s high praise for the tall right-hander, as Bosio seems ready to put him in the same category as elite pitchers like Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg and Cole Hamels.
As outlandish as Bosio’s claim may sound, there are signs Samardzija may actually deserve such acclaim. Conventional wisdom among scouts is that—unless you’re Randy Johnson—you have to carry three plus pitches to be among the true number ones in baseball. Having always been blessed with one of the hardest fastballs in the game (an offering he commanded exceptionally well last season), Samardzija has finally honed his slider into an above-average pitch. He also developed a splitter that proved to be his go-to, put-away pitch when he got two strikes on an opposing hitter.
Last season, the Shark led the Cubs in games started, innings pitched, quality starts, strikeouts and complete games.
According to PITCHf/x data, of starters who tossed at least 150 innings, Samardzija was third in fastball velocity (behind Stephen Strasburg and David Price) at an average of 95.96 mph. But, naturally, you need to be able to do more than just throw a ball hard to succeed; a pitcher needs to convert that heat into strikeouts. Samardzija’s 12.1 percent swinging strike rate and 24.9 percent strikeout rate ranked sixth and seventh (minimum 150 innings), respectively, in all of baseball.
If Samardzija can improve on his career low 7.8 percent walk rate from last season (the league average usually hovers around 8.0 percent), reduce his home runs allowed (he gave up 20 long balls in 2012) and develop that all-important consistency every pitcher needs, he’ll be primed to take another big step in his development.
If and when that time comes, he’ll officially earn the label “The Man.” But the always confident Samardzija isn’t one to shy away from the spotlight.
“That’s what I signed up for,” Samardzija said. “If you don’t want those expectations for yourself, then you may as well go play somewhere else. That’s just kind of a given. There’s going to be pressure, and there’s going to be a lot riding on what you do.”
The Cubs will run out most of their projected starters today at HoHoKam against Giants righty Matt Cain. Cain is coming off another exceptional season, which saw him compile a 16-5 record and a 2.79 ERA in 32 starts. That was good for sixth in the 2012 NL Cy Young voting.
Len Kasper will broadcast today’s game on mlb.com. Here is the lineup:
Being a major league baseball player can be a strange life. The stakes are always high, millions of people are watching your every move and everyone wants to be your friend. You’d be surprised the things these athletes hear on a day-to-day basis.
Thanks to the World Baseball Classic, Spring Training is a few weeks longer than usual this season. As the spring slate drags on, everyone needs to blow off some steam. Vine Line had some fun with the team to dig up a few facts you won’t find on the back of a baseball card. We’ll post one more installment of our Kicking Back video series early next week.
Here are the other videos from out Spring Training series:
Throughout the offseason, Cubs baseball president Theo Epstein repeatedly talked about growing the Cubs “core” of talented, young players—players the organization can count on for the long haul and who can help bring winning baseball back to Chicago. In the year-plus Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer have been with the team, that core has grown dramatically through savvy trades and smart draft picks.
“That core, at least in my mind, went from one player to half a dozen,” Epstein said shortly after the 2012 season ended. “If we can do that again in 2013, and we look up and we have close to a dozen players in our core, I’ll feel great about the overall health of the organization.”
At the major league level, the Cubs foundation now includes talented shortstop Starlin Castro, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson, and Gold Glove-winning second baseman Darwin Barney. Vine Line sat down with the some of this talented group at Spring Training to see what their expectations are for the coming season.
Think you know everything there is to know about the 2013 Cubs? Think again.
Did you know Edwin Jackson could have been a real estate agent, Anthony Rizzo feels a kinship with Justin Timberlake, and Dave Sappelt has a little crush on a cartoon character?
Thanks to the World Baseball Classic, Spring Training is a few weeks longer than usual this season. As the spring slate drags on, everyone needs to blow off some steam. After a rain-shortened workout Wednesday, even manager Dale Sveum said, “It’s not bad to have a little breather,” from time to time.
Vine Line had some fun with the team to dig up a few facts you won’t find on the back of a baseball card. Check back later this week for more in our Kicking Back video series.
A steady rain drowned out most of the final day of Cubs baseball at Fitch Park on Wednesday, but there was still a little news.
The Cubs announced the starters for the opening games of their Cactus League slate, which kicks off this weekend. Travis Wood will get the Saturday start against the Los Angeles Angels in Tempe, and Jeff Samardzija will pitch the Sunday home opener against the San Francisco Giants. Carlos Villanueva will pitch Game 3 on Monday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Edwin Jackson will start on Tuesday against the Colorado Rockies.
Matt Garza’s debut has been pushed back due to a mild lat strain on his left side. It was announced Tuesday that he’ll likely be out about a week before resuming baseball activities.
Manager Dale Sveum also held his daily presser, despite the lack of on-field action. Here are Sveum’s best quotes from the day:
Then vs. Now
“We have a lot of the same guys in camp [from a year ago] that ended getting some time in the big leagues. But like I said yesterday, there’s just a whole different look in their eyes. Having that experience and going through some adversity with some of the young guys, it’s a whole lot different. There’s just so much more talent in camp this year than there was last year—and also depth. Guys that are very capable of pitching in the big leagues or guys that are on our radar getting really close to the big leagues. … There’s just more playable talent in camp this year.”
“Spring Training is what it is in any park. Here it’s a little bit unique because you have to move [from Fitch to HoHoKam]. Probably my first memory here is when I had to come over here 25 years ago and rehab my leg clear across from Peoria [in extended Spring Training]. We shared it with the Cubs at that time.”
Prospect Watch (Javy Baez, Jorge Soler, Junior Lake, etc.)
“We have so many split-squad games they’re going to get quite a few games in before being sent down. There are a lot of at-bats out there.”
“I’m very anxious [to see them]. Those are the guys you talk about that are on your radar in the minor league systems that have all those God-given tools—the speed, the arm, the power, hopefully the hitting ability, meaning OPS and those things. A lot of that stuff comes a little bit later in careers. But it’s pretty special talent and bat speed those guys have. You want to see it in person and at game speed.”
“We do have some personalities that are able to fill those [leadership] roles. I think [Anthony] Rizzo is one of those guys. I think [Darwin] Barney is ready to be that guy. Obviously Rizzo’s rookie year and Barney winning a Gold Glove—those kinds of things give you added ability to be a leader in the clubhouse because people look up to people like that. We have [Alfonso] Soriano, and [Jeff] Samardzija is going to take on that role, as well as [Matt] Garza and Edwin Jackson. So we have plenty of personalities that can do that.”
Building for the Future
“Going into this last year, you knew the plan we had, and we weren’t going to take any shortcuts to vary from it. Within a year, the whole organization has changed so dramatically for the good. You just get better players in the organization, and you create an atmosphere where people want to play here, and they want to come to this ballpark and work. That’s all you can do. That’s the transformation we’re trying to do all the time here. And it’s changed a ton in a year.”
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Finally, baseball is back. As pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training this past weekend, Cubs fans everywhere got a little more excited with the realization that the baseball season is nearing.
And to get us back into gear, the February issue of Vine Line previewed the squad heading into Mesa, Ariz. We broke the team down into five groups—starting pitching, relief pitching, infielders, outfielders and catchers—to give people a clearer picture of what the team could look like when it breaks camp and heads to Chicago.
Below is the starting rotation preview. The February issue is on newsstands now, with single issues available by calling 800-618-8377. Or visit the Vine Line page on Cubs.com to subscribe to the magazine.
If everyone stays healthy—always a big if—the Cubs will have an abundance of starting pitching for the first time in a while. Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson and Jeff Samardzija are locks for the rotation, while Scott Feldman, Scott Baker, Travis Wood and Carlos Villanueva will battle for the final two spots. Baker, who has a 63-48 career record, underwent Tommy John surgery in April. Though he may be ready come Opening Day, the Cubs’ depth allows them to be patient with his return.
Garza’s rehab from the elbow issues that knocked him out for the final two months of 2012 appears to be on schedule, and he’s been adamant that he’ll be ready by April. A healthy Garza could build on his impressive 2011 season, in which he had a career-best 3.32 ERA and 197 strikeouts. The Cubs’ surplus of starting pitching makes the idea of parting with Garza in a trade for prospects slightly easier to stomach. That’s certainly a possibility, either in March when he’s proven he’s healthy or at the July trade deadline.
Jackson’s acquisition provides the team with a reliable innings-eater—he’s made at least 31 starts and tossed at least 180 innings in each of the last five seasons—a wildly underappreciated skill. Any manager who’s had to overuse his bullpen, like the Cubs have the past few seasons, will tell you how much he appreciates having a pitcher he can rely on to deliver six quality innings every fifth day.
Feldman and Wood both have the ability to be competent starters, and Villanueva showed flashes of brilliance last season, including an impressive 22.9 percent strikeout rate and 6.7 percent walk rate in 92 innings as a starter. However, he has yet to prove he can deliver those numbers over 160-plus innings.
The real breakout star in the rotation may be Samardzija, whose road to this point has been bumpy. In the span of two seasons, Samardzija has gone from failed prospect, to reliable bullpen arm, to possible future ace, thanks to his dogged work ethic and electric arm. Samardzija will have no innings limit in 2013, so it’s a good bet he’ll take another step forward and become the anchor for a rotation that has the potential to be the team’s strength.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija turns 28 years old today. In his first full season in the rotation, Samardzija went 9-13 with a 3.81 ERA in 174.2 innings before being shut down following a complete game gem on Sept. 8. The Cubs announced they had come to terms on a one-year, $2.64 million deal with the right-hander at last weekend’s Cubs Convention, where Samardzija was asked how he felt about the possibility of getting an Opening Day start.
‘‘That would be a 180, right?’’ he said. ‘‘To go from maybe wondering if you’re ever going to put a Cubs jersey on again two years ago at this event to maybe being the Opening Day starter. It means a lot to me’’
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Ready to get the 2013 baseball season started? The Cubs campaign kicks off next weekend, Jan. 18-20, at the 28th Annual Cubs Convention, held for the first time at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in downtown Chicago. The event will feature more than 75 current, past and future Cubs players and coaches, and will offer more than 100 photo and autograph opportunities.
The Opening Ceremony begins on Friday, Jan. 18, at 5 p.m., and will feature player and alumni introductions on a red carpet runway that will offer special VIP access to children 16 and under. Following the Opening Ceremony, guests will find some of their favorite Cubs throughout the hotel for an exciting Autograph Hunt Game. The evening will conclude with longtime Cubs Convention favorite Cubs Bingo, led by Wayne Messmer, as well as a live radio broadcast of WGN Sports Night.
Saturday’s program continues the gaming fun with the return of Cubs Jeopardy, which pits alumni pitchers Milt Pappas, Scott Sanderson, Lee Smith and Rick Sutcliffe against alumni position players Jose Cardenal, Jody Davis, Randy Hundley and Todd Walker. Cubs Family Feud makes its Cubs Convention debut Saturday afternoon, as Cubs alumni Bobby Dernier, Jon Lieber, Gary Matthews and Billy Williams take on current Cubs Michael Bowden, Shawn Camp, Brett Jackson and Ian Stewart.
Fans can meet many of the club’s offseason acquisitions—including pitchers Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and Edwin Jackson; catcher Dioner Navarro; and outfielder Nate Schierholtz—at the Meet the New Cubs session hosted by new television analyst Jim Deshaies and play-by-play broadcaster Len Kasper.
Additional Saturday sessions include:
- Ricketts Family Forum—Tom, Laura, Pete and Todd Ricketts speak with Len Kasper and fans about their experience as team owners over the past three years.
- Meet Cubs Baseball Management—President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, Executive Vice President/General Manager Jed Hoyer, Assistant General Manager Randy Bush, Assistant General Manager Shiraz Rehman and manager Dale Sveum speak about the club’s recent moves and what lies ahead for the 2013 season.
- From Draft Day to the Big Leagues—Cubs minor league prospects Dallas Beeler, Matt Szczur, Robert Whitenack and Tony Zych discuss what it’s like to get drafted by the Chicago Cubs and advance through the minor leagues.
- Dale Sveum and the Coaching Staff—The Cubs manager, bench coach Jamie Quirk, hitting coach James Rowson, assistant hitting coach Rob Deer, bullpen boach Lester Strode, first base coach Dave McKay and third base coach David Bell speak with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies about what’s in store during the staff’s second year.
- For Kids Only Press Conference, presented by Advocate Health Care—A unique Q&A session where kids ask the questions to Darwin Barney, David DeJesus, Brooks Raley, Anthony Rizzo and Chris Rusin.
- Renew Wrigley Field—Cubs executives discuss ideas to preserve and renew iconic Wrigley Field based on input from Cubs fans, season ticket holders and the community.
- Not for Women Only—Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza, James Russell, and Travis Wood discuss their personal sides and lives off the field.
- WGN Radio’s Sports Central—This live broadcast with WGN Radio’s Jim Memolo and Glen Kozlowski will feature segments with David DeJesus and Matt Garza; Darwin Barney and Jeff Samardzija; Tony Campana and Starlin Castro; and Brett Jackson, Edwin Jackson and Anthony Rizzo.
Sunday’s program features two panel sessions to close out the Convention:
- Down on the Farm—Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod, Director of Pro Scouting Joe Bohringer and Director of Player Development Brandon Hyde will be joined by Cubs farmhands Chris Rusin and Josh Vitters to give a breakdown of the Cubs minor league teams from Iowa down to Mesa. Hosted by Vine Line editor Gary Cohen and broadcaster Dave Otto.
- Stat Sundays—Broadcasters Jim Deshaies, Len Kasper and WGN’s Bob Vorwald offer insight into the statistics they analyze and feature during Stat Sundays throughout the season.
In addition to the sessions highlighted above, the Convention includes many new and returning activities throughout the weekend for fans:
Rookie of the Year Movie Night, presented by the Cubs Kids Club, makes its Cubs Convention debut. Fans can eat popcorn and relax with family and friends Saturday evening while watching the popular film, Rookie of the Year.
Walgreens Field is a new miniature turf diamond that gives kids a fun place to take practice batting, play pick-up wiffle ball games or participate in professional instructional clinics as part of the Baseball Interactive Zone. Cubs players and coaches will pair up with Illinois Baseball Academy instructors to conduct a series of training opportunities for fans of all ages throughout the weekend.
Comcast SportsNet Chicago is giving fans the chance to test their play-by-play broadcasting skills in a custom-built fantasy broadcasting booth. Guests will call a pre-recorded play in the booth, then download a recorded copy of their work for keeps.
MLB Network’s Strike Zone allows fans to test their arm speed and win prizes at an inflatable speed pitch.
The Sony PlayStation Gaming Zone gives attendees a chance to take a break from the action to play MLB 12 The Show at one of several Sony PS3 kiosks.
The LEGOLAND® Discovery Center returns with an area dedicated for families to exercise their creativity with the small building blocks.
American Girl’s Activity Area features activities inspired by American Girl dolls and the chance to win a new doll and book.
The Chicago Sun-Times Photo Kiosk lets fans have their picture taken for the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times with customizable headlines that make for a memorable souvenir.
Fans can learn about or contribute to the history of the Cubs franchise in collaboration with team archivists. Historical pieces of memorabilia will be on hand for viewing, and guests can receive professional tips on how to preserve their own valuable keepsakes. Attendees are invited to share their personal stories with a video crew, and they may be used in future promotions or publications.
Limited individual weekend passes for the 2013 Cubs Convention are still available for $60 per pass plus convenience fees. Visit www.cubs.com/convention or call 1-800-THE-CUBS. A percentage of the proceeds from the Cubs Convention benefits Chicago Cubs Charities. To date, Cubs Convention has raised approximately $4 million for Chicago Cubs Charities.
(Art by Jerry Neumann)
Kerry Wood has spent most of his adult life honing his craft as a major league pitcher. So excuse him if he’s not a world-class bartender.
On Jan. 18, you’ll get your chance to see him in action and critique his skills as he slings drinks at the second annual Woody’s Winter Warm-Up at Harry Caray’s Tavern on Navy Pier. Starting at 8:30 p.m., Wood will join former and current Cubs players, as well as local celebrities, behind the bar, where they will compete for tips with all proceeds benefitting the Wood Family Foundation. Wood said the event is a good time, and current players like Darwin Barney, Jeff Samardzija and James Russell are expected to attend.
“People want to give back and do it for a good cause,” Wood said. “Last year … people got really into it, and it was really cool.”
At the inaugural mixer in 2012, the Grammy-nominated band Plain White T’s performed. They even got a little help from former Cub Randy Wells and baseball president Theo Epstein on a few songs. The event raised more than $85,000, thanks to about 30 current and former players, who pitched in behind the bar or simply enjoyed the evening.
But don’t count on Wood to make you the best Old-Fashioned or dirty martini of your life, as he admits this probably won’t be a new career path.
“I’m really good at taking the tops of beers off with the opener,” Wood joked. “I pour a mean glass of wine, but I’m not a mixologist.”
Tickets are on sale now and in limited supply. For more information, visit woodfamilyfoundation.org.