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Cubs name Jeff Samardzija Opening Day starter

Updated: March 14, 2014 9:26PM



MESA, Ariz. — Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Friday that Jeff Samardzija will start the season opener March 31 in Pittsburgh, but the question remains whether he’ll be around to make the start.

Samardzija laughed when told Twitter followers already were responding to the news by asking which team he’d be pitching for.

He downplayed the reality that he’s been available in trade for anybody with a strong enough offer since last season and that he’s a near certainty to be traded by the July 31 non-waiver deadline.

“It’s exciting,” he said of the assignment for his second consecutive opener. “It really helps you realize that we’re getting close to the season.”

In the opener last season, also in Pittsburgh, Samardzija pitched eight scoreless innings, allowing two hits and one walk, in the Cubs’ 3-1 victory. He finished the season 8-13 with a 4.34 ERA.

Samardzija gets the nod this year over Travis Wood, the Cubs’ lone All-Star last year and likely only lefty in the rotation.

Samardzija is 4-1 with a 0.73 ERA in four career starts and five relief appearances at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

Renteria said Wood and Edwin Jackson will finish the series. That lines up newcomer Jason Hammel for the home opener April 4 against the Phillies.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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