3/26 Samardzija ready to roll

Jeff Samardzija admits he’s a little stubborn and he would prefer to start than pitch in relief. But the right-hander accepted the news that he will be in the bullpen on Opening Day with the Cubs.

“Obviously, we had goals that we wanted to do and set for spring,” Samardzija said Friday. “It’s a change of plans. I’m actually excited. It’ll be good to go out there and get in the game today [in relief]. We’ll work to make this ‘pen the way we want it.”

Samardzija said he understood the decision was made to benefit the team.

“We just want to win games,” Samardzija said. “[Piniella] felt that would be the best way for me to help this team out and that’s what we’ll do.”

He was successful in the bullpen in 2008, appearing in 26 games and compiling a 2.28 ERA that year.

“There’s still a lot to learn about being in the pen,” said Samardzija, who has picked up tips from Kerry Wood, Bob Howry and Kevin Gregg.

Plus, Piniella told Samardzija this doesn’t mean he’ll never start in the Majors again.

“Again, we go back to my stubborn side,” Samardzija said. “Trust me, I’m just a competitive guy and everything we talk about starting just has to do with me being a competitive guy and I get my mind set on things. You have to be like that. If you don’t have that edge in professional sports or have an idea of where you want to be, then things are going to slip by. I just want to win a lot of baseball games. It doesn’t matter what position you’re playing or if you’re a starter or reliever or closer, if you’re winning a lot of ballgames, you’re having a lot of fun.”

Would he be better off in the Minors, starting on a regular basis?

“There’s way more to be learned throwing every other day in the bullpen [in the big leagues] then there is in Triple-A,” Samardzija said. “I’ve done that. I’ve done well down there. Mike Mason is a great pitching coach and I love working with him and he’s done a lot of things for me. Where I’m at now, it’s not so much that but being on the mound in big league games. What you learn up here is second to none.”

The competition for the two spots in the rotation came down to Samardzija, Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelanny and Sean Marshall. Who would Samardzija pick?

“Greg Maddux and anyone else he wanted to pick,” Samardzija said.

— Carrie Muskat


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