Results tagged ‘ Jeff Samardzija ’

3/30 Opening Day eve …

On Monday, the games count. It was snowing and sleeting in Pittsburgh Saturday night when the Cubs arrived from Phoenix. They’ll kick off the 2014 season on Monday at PNC Park, and the forecast calls for lots of sunshine and temperatures in the upper 50s. There is zero chance of precipitation. First pitch is scheduled for 12:05 p.m. CT.

* The Cubs are 75-61-2 all-time on Opening Day, including a 46-38 record on the road. They are looking to win consecutive Opening Day games for the first time since winning four straight from 2003-06.

* Last year, the Cubs had three new pitchers in the rotation in Edwin Jackson, Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva. This year, four of the five pitchers in the Cubs’ season-opening starting rotation are returnees: Jeff Samardzija, Jackson, Travis Wood and Villanueva. Jason Hammel is the lone new starting pitcher.

* Luis Valbuena finished tied for the Major League lead (with the Reds’ Chris Heisey) with six home spring home runs. Javier Baez and Mike Olt were tied for third with five homers apiece.

* Ryan Kalish’s six stolen bases were tied for fifth in the Cactus League with the D-backs’ Tony Campana. Emilio Bonifacio’s four triples were tied for third in the Cactus League. Alberto Cabrera’s three saves were tied for second.

* The Cubs smacked 36 home runs this spring, most in the Majors, but the team’s .237 batting average was the lowest among Cactus League clubs.

* Cubs pitchers posted 10 saves, tied for the Cactus League lead with the Giants.

* The 2014 season marks manager Rick Renteria’s 16th year as a manager or coach following a 13-year playing career (1980-89, 1991-94). He spent the previous six seasons on the Padres coaching staff, including the last three as the club’s bench coach (2011-13).

3/25 Looking ahead …

Here are the starting pitchers for the final Cactus League games:

Wednesday at Diamondbacks, Scottsdale: Jeff Samardzija (Chris Rusin to follow)
Thursday vs. White Sox, Mesa: Travis Wood
Friday vs. Diamondbacks, Chase Field: Edwin Jackson
Saturday vs. Diamondbacks, Chase Field: Jason Hammel

3/22 Pitching notes

* Looking ahead, pitching-wise, Jeff Samardzija will make his final spring start on Wednesday against the jet-lagged Diamondbacks in Scottsdale. Arizona has already opened the season with a game in Australia.

* Travis Wood will start the Cubs’ home opener on April 4.

“It’ll be exciting for sure, even though Pittsburgh is a great place to pitch,” said Wood, who had been expected to follow Jeff Samardzija in the rotation.

Isn’t Wrigley Field a good place?

“Wrigley’s fine,” Wood said, laughing. “It’ll be cold either place, so it’s not like the weather will be different. The place will be packed, it’ll be jumping, it’ll be nice.”

Rick Renteria said they made the decision because of matchups. Wood has made three starts against the Phillies, and held them to five runs on 13 hits over 21 1/3 innings.

* The Cubs are still trying to fill the fifth spot in the rotation. The candidates include Carlos Villanueva, Chris Rusin and Tsuyoshi Wada. Villanueva, a valuable swingman, will start Monday against the Padres, while Wada will start Tuesday against the Angels. Rusin, who threw five shutout innings on Friday against the White Sox, is a possibility, but the Cubs may pick Villanueva because of his versatility and the fact they have four off days in the first three weeks of games. If the other four starters stay on a five-day rotation, Villanueva could slide into the bullpen until needed.

Renteria didn’t tip his hand on Saturday when asked about the fifth spot.

“They’re all still in the mix,” he said. “They’re all going out there and doing a nice job.”

* The Cubs had projected Jake Arrieta as the fifth starter but he’s been slowed this spring because of tightness in his right shoulder. On Sunday, Arrieta was scheduled to throw a bullpen.

“I’m hoping the next step is a game,” he said Saturday. “We’ll talk things over and see where we stand.”

* Cubs fans will get a chance to see two of the top pitching prospects on Tuesday when C.J. Edwards and Eric Jokisch pitch against the Padres. Edwards, 22, was a combined 8-2 with a 1.86 ERA in 24 games with Class A Hickory and Daytona last season. The Cubs acquired him in the Matt Garza deal. Jokisch, 24, was 11-13 with a 3.42 ERA at Double-A Tennessee in 2013.

– Carrie Muskat

3/20 Mariners 3, Cubs 0

Jeff Samardzija continued his tune-up for Opening Day. He struck out eight over 5 1/3 innings Thursday in the Cubs’ 3-0 loss to the Mariners. The right-hander felt much better than he did in his previous outing when he was charged with four runs on seven hits and three walks over 3 2/3 innings. He made a few changes in his mechanics after a side session or two with pitching coach Chris Bosio.

“The more I pitch, the more I realize it’s little things,” Samardzija said. “You start overhauling stuff too much, you’ll find yourself constantly changing. Sometimes it just clicks, a lot of times it has to do with conditioning and your arm and when your arm strength comes around, you’re able to do more things than what you could do before. I thought we did a couple more things that kept me from flying open and kept me closed and kept the ball on the plate more.”

Samardzija got some help from left fielder Junior Lake, who robbed Logan Morrison of a home run with a perfectly timed leaping catch at the wall with one on in the sixth. Samardzija was then pulled. He’ll have one more Cactus League start before the regular season begins.

“We’re ready to get going,” Samardzija said. “Let’s finish these last few games up strong and keep everyone healthy and get this show on the road.”

* Mike Olt, slowed by a tender right shoulder this spring, made his first start at third for the Cubs and played seven innings. He did not appear to have any problems in the field.

“It felt great to be out there, I felt like I was part of the game,” Olt said. “I was a little rusty but I’m glad I wa able to get out there and really test it out.”

He would’ve liked to field a couple more ground balls but the Mariners somehow waited until he was out of the game. Backup Jonathan Mota handled back to back plays at third to open the Seattle eighth.

“That’s how it always works,” Olt said. “The ball will find you when you get in there.”

* Thursday’s game was played in front of a Cactus League record crowd of 15,243 at Cubs Park. The Cubs, who are averaging 13,909 in 11 dates at their new Spring Training ballpark, had set the previous attendance high of 15,191 on March 14 against the Dodgers. Thursday was the second crowd to top 15,000 at Cubs Park.

* On deck: Chris Rusin, a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation, will start Friday when the Cubs travel to Glendale to face the White Sox. Rusin looked sharp in his last outing against the Mets, giving up one hit over four innings and striking out two. Javier Baez, who shares the Cactus League lead in home runs with five, will start at shortstop, with Anthony Rizzo at first. The game will be broadcast on Cubs.com.

– Carrie Muskat

3/20 Heads up

Cubs pitchers know they could have a line drive coming at them at any time, but the new protective hats MLB has proposed apparently aren’t very popular. Would Jeff Samardzija wear one?

“No,” he said. “They look stupid.”

The topic of pitchers wearing helmets was revived after Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman was struck in the face with by a line drive Wednesday night. Chapman will be sidelined at least six weeks. A protective cap wouldn’t have stopped the line drive from hitting him in the face.

“It’s like the old school days in hockey,” Samardzija said. “Those guys weren’t asking for helmets, they made them put them on. We know we put ourselves at risk when we go out there and you need to be ready at any time. I think in Spring Training it’s more common [to have injuries like that] because your sense of awareness and how much you’re into it isn’t like what it is during the season.”

– Carrie Muskat

3/20 Cubs lineup

Mike Olt makes his first start at third base on Thursday when the Cubs play host to the Mariners at Cubs Park in Mesa. Jeff Samardzija gets the start in his tune up for Opening Day. You can listen to a broadcast on Cubs.com. Here’s the lineup:

Lake LF
Barney 2B
Schierholtz RF
Olt 3B
Sweeney CF
Castillo C
Murphy SS
Roberts 1B
Samardzija P

3/18 Two weeks to go

The Cubs have a night game Tuesday in Surprise against the Rangers. There are 13 games remaining in Spring Training. Is it crunch time?

“I think some people are slow Spring Training guys, and a lot of us are like, ‘OK, let’s get going,’ so they’re hitting their stride when the season starts,” Donnie Murphy said. “I wouldn’t say it’s ‘crunch time.’ It’s more getting more hits, having more solid at-bats the closer you get to the season more than anything.”

What do the Cubs still have to do? Here’s a list:

1. Complete the rotation

Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel are set. James McDonald threw two pitches on Monday, and was pulled because of shoulder stiffness. That leaves Chris Rusin, who has looked really good, and Tsuyoshi Wada as options for the fifth spot. Carlos Villanueva also could step in if needed, although Rick Renteria says they like the right-hander more as a swing man. Villanueva will start Wednesday.

2. Finalize the bullpen spots

Jose Veras is set at closer. Who sets him up? James Russell should be fine after being slowed with a tired arm. The Cubs have to decide what to do with Jonathan Sanchez, Neil Ramirez, Justin Grimm and Blake Parker. Alberto Cabrera has given up one run on three hits in five innings over five games, and he’s out of options. The surprise this spring has been Arodys Vizcaino, who has served up two hits and one walk over three innings in three games. He’s throwing 98 mph.

3. Third base

Do the Cubs go with a combo of Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy, or do they give the job to Mike Olt? Olt has been unable to play third because of a tender right shoulder, but will get time there this week. He’s batting .241 with 11 strikeouts, but also shares the team lead with three home runs.

4. Figure out the bench

Junior Lake has struggled this spring. Is he ready for full work? Or is Ryan Kalish a better option for the outfield, even though he’s another left-handed bat. Chris Valaika can play anywhere but is batting .207 this spring. They like Emilio Bonifacio as a leadoff option.

5. Enjoy the kid

Javier Baez started at second base on Monday, and the Cubs want him to play third base as well before Cactus League games finish. The front office has repeated over and over that Baez will open as Iowa’s shortstop. These last two weeks will give Renteria and others one last look at their top prospect.

– Carrie Muskat

3/15 Cubs Vegas lineup

Tsuyoshi Wada gets the start for the Cubs on Saturday in Las Vegas when they face the Mets at Cashman Field. The game will be broadcast on WGN TV. Here’s the lineup:

Barney 2B
Murphy 3B
Schierholtz DH
Rizzo 1B
Sweeney CF
Baez SS
McDonald RF
Whiteside C
Szczur LF

* Jeff Samardzija is starting for the Cubs in Surprise against the Royals. That game will be broadcast on WGN Radio.

3/14 Probable pitchers

The Cubs have three straight days of split squad games, starting Saturday. Here is how the pitching will line up:

Saturday: Jeff Samardzija at Royals
Saturday: Carlos Pimentel vs. Mets in Las Vegas

Sunday: Travis Wood vs. Indians
Sunday: Chris Rusin vs. Mets in Las Vegas

Monday: Edwin Jackson vs. Angels
Monday: James McDonald at Athletics in Phoenix

Tuesday: Jason Hammel at Rangers in Surprise

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

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