3/14 Samardzija gets Opening Day start
Cubs manager Rick Renteria named Jeff Samardzija as the Opening Day starter, and the right-hander will kick the season off on March 31 against the Pirates. This will be Samardzija’s second straight Opening Day assignment. He also started in the 2013 opener, which also was against the Pirates at PNC Park. The right-hander beat the Pirates, giving up two hits and striking out nine over eight scoreless innings, in a 3-1 Cubs win.
Ryan Dempster was the last Cubs pitcher to start consecutive Opening Days, doing so in 2011-12.
“Jeff will take the nod,” Renteria said Friday. “Everybody’s looking forward to him taking the hill against Pittsburgh.”
Left-hander Travis Wood will follow Samardzija. Both pitchers reached 200 innings last season for the first time in their careers. Samardzija finished 8-13, while Wood was 9-12.
“We’ll go Woody [in the second game] and keep working on the rest,” Renteria said of his rotation. “[Edwin Jackson] should follow and everybody will follow in line.”
The Cubs are still sorting out the rest of the rotation with Jason Hammel, Chris Rusin, Jake Arrieta, James McDonald and Carlos Villanueva in the mix.
Renteria said it wasn’t a tough decision to name Samardzija.
“Jeff’s done it before, and put in a very strong year, as Woody did,” Renteria said. “I think the decision was quite easy for all of us.”
— Carrie Muskat