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TELANDER: It’s Cell and cellar for White Sox and Cubs

Jeff Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija

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The sun came out Thursday in our city of endless winter, and you know what that means. Worms inching their way upward so the robins can eat ’em!

Well, yes, and baseball. Soon, kids. Like three days from now.

The Cubs open Monday in Pittsburgh against the Pirates, and the White Sox open Monday at home against the Royals.

For those of you interested in both teams — I know there aren’t many of you — you could, if you so choose, watch the Cubs begin the season at 12:35 on Ch. 9, then switch at the end to Comcast SportsNet and catch the Sox game beginning at 3:10. You could do that, but only if Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija pitches well and fast, and we don’t get a four-hour game like slow-as-mud pitcher Steve Trachsel used to serve up.

Which reminds me of my first Cubs thought of the season — beyond the endless bickering about Wrigley Field renovations and rooftops: If you had told me back when he was at Notre Dame that Samardzija would one day be an Opening Day pitcher for the Cubs, I would have snorted in my beer.

My best recollection of him was as a tall, agile, glue-fingered All-America wide receiver for the Irish. Yes, he was 6-5 and was a fine pitcher for Notre Dame’s baseball team. But ace of the Cubs someday? At 28, he may be that, especially with Matt Garza out until May with a lat injury.

Here’s hoping Samardzija is now in his prime because his career record of 21-22 (9-13 last year), with a 4.10 ERA is not yet stellar. In other words, dear Lord, don’t let Cubness steal this young man’s lightning.

I’ll shift to the Sox quickly and announce that their Opening Day starter, stringbean Chris Sale, only 23 with a career 21-11 record and 2.89 ERA, appears to be the real deal. The guy occasionally looks like he might fall apart at the joints — he goes 6-6, 180 — but his arm is fast and as loose as a bullwhip.

So there’s what we know sort of for certain.

What we don’t know is endless. I could even ask what is the deal with everybody in Chicago pro sports being injured? Start with Derrick Rose, Richard Hamilton and Joakim Noah, then get to Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa, and then we have . . . baseball.

At times, it has appeared the only reason the Cubs and Sox have spring training is to see how many players they can wound. We mentioned Garza for the Cubs, but that can be nicely countered by $65 million lefty pitcher John Danks for the Sox, a hopeful superstar whose torn shoulder capsule makes his entire future dubious right now.

Alex Rios (back) and others have been hurt, but the Sox seem to be weathering their losses OK. Pitcher Jake Peavy, who has fought injuries since forever, appears — miraculously — to be healthy. Along with Sale and pitcher Jose Quintana, the Sox are at least stable on the mound.

Their offense is the fun part, though. And if big old hammers Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn can stay healthy and keep pounding away, and youngster Dayan Viciedo can continue his power surge, the Sox could contend for the post-season.

Most of the predictions I’ve seen pick the Sox anywhere from fourth to second in the American League Central, with the Tigers winning. That seems reasonable, though I’d go with second place for the Sox. If they hadn’t folded at the end last year, they would’ve won the division, a surprise to all.

But I approve of what ESPN writer Dan Szymborski said about these projections: ‘‘If there’s ever an article that makes you look back six months later and eat crow, hats or myriad other semi-edible items, it’s team predictions.’’

I’m eating none of that, but I think I can say this about the Cubs with something like certitude: 2013 is going to be another grim one.

When ancient, why-hasn’t-he-been-traded-yet? outfielder Alfonso Soriano looks like your most dependable hitter, and you have no idea how focused or day-dreamy shortstop Starlin Castro will be, you have issues.

The Cubs aren’t actually rebuilding, they’re regurgitating. That is, we saw this before, on the way down.

Everybody picks the Cubs (61-101 last year) to finish last in the National League Central. Some have them losing 100 or more games again.

Unfair! The Cubs are people, too. They have feelings. They will not lose more than 99 games.

I almost guarantee it.



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