2/27 Samardzija’s spring debut
Jeff Samardzija’s goal this season is to be more efficient, so walking the leadoff batter wasn’t a good start.
“It must have been the fireworks or something,” Samardzija said, laughing. “I think it was the first time the Cubbies ever had fireworks.”
Samardzija started in the Cactus League opener and first game ever at new Cubs Park on Thursday, and survived that first inning glitch and the fireworks. The right-hander has been a hot topic in offseason trade rumors. There were plenty of scouts at Thursday’s game, and not just for the commemorative pin celebrating the stadium’s debut.
“You’re not really worried about too much,” Samardzija said of the scouts. “You assume they’re there every game. I want to put on a good show for them.”
The Blue Jays and Diamondbacks were among the teams believed to be interested in adding the right-hander to their rotation. Did he even think about pitching for Arizona?
“No, I’ve only played for the Cubbies so I only know one team to play for and that’s here,” he said. “I don’t worry about that too much.”
The rumors haven’t been a distraction.
“If anything [the rumors] just put a chip on your shoulder and make you want to go out and prove even more,” Samardzija said. “That’s the thing about this game is that you’re constantly going out to prove yourself. It doesn’t matter what your contact situation is or anyting like that. The only thing that matters is proving yourself that day against the team you’re playing against.
“It’s a tough game, so when you do do well, it feels good personally and you build on that for your next time out and the time after that,” he said. “If you’re not your own hardest critic and not checking yourself harder than anyone else, then you have a problem. I’m my hardest critic and I’ll always be that way.”
All the talk is not going to go away, and Samardzija knows that. The Cubs have discussed a long-term deal but the two sides obviously haven’t agreed on terms. The right-hander said he’d be surprised if he was dealt before the season began.
“From what it sounds like right now, we’re going head over heels for the season with this team,” Samardzija said of the Cubs. “Rick’s made it very clear we’re here to win, which I love. I love to hear him talk about his excitement for winning. Not development — development is part of it, but Rick’s No. 1 goal is winning, and me and him are 100 percent on the same page when it comes to that. we want to win, we want to win here and we want to win now.”
— Carrie Muskat