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For Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija, it’s better to feel good than to look good

Updated: April 13, 2013 6:36AM

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — With three weeks and three more spring starts to go, Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija has Opening Day on his mind. And by the time he was done pitching in the fifth inning Monday, he seemed to think he was just about ready.

“I really thought [Monday] was a big turn for me, just how I felt,’’ he said. “The adjustments I need to make are pretty simple, I feel like. I’m excited.

“Obviously, I’ve still got three or four more starts to go, which is good. We’ll fine-tune some things. But this was a big day for me.”

It didn’t look great as Samardzija gave up four runs, including three on a pair of homers, in 42/3 innings.

But he said he felt as good as he has all spring.

And with two more stamina-building starts before a final tapered start, he’s in the final stretch before getting the chance to prove he deserves the Opening Day nod.

“It says a lot about what your team thinks of you and what your coaches think of you,’’ he said of the April 1 start in Pittsburgh. “You don’t want to disrespect it and want to go out and do your work and really make them feel like they made the right decision.”

Earning the gold

Among the strange facts that baseball’s pay structure produced this year was the fact that a pre-arbitration Darwin Barney — who won a Gold Glove last season — will make more this season than the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout, who won the American League Rookie of the Year award, was an All-Star and finished second in the AL MVP voting.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with the numbers, obviously,’’ said Barney, whose additional two years of service time is a big reason he’s at $562,000, compared with Trout’s $510,000.

The other real reason is that the Angels chose to pay Trout just $20,000 more than the major-league minimum in his second season.

“Ask me the question in two years, and we’ll see what he’s making,” Barney said. “When push comes to shove, I think he’s happy to be where he’s at. I think we all are. We’re all blessed to be here.”

Spring cleaning

The Cubs cut six players from their roster, including their 2012 minor-league player of the year and pitcher of the year — middle infielder Logan Watkins and right-hander Nick Struck.

Watkins was optioned to
Class AAA Iowa, along with three pitchers: right-handers Trey McNutt and Alberto Cabrera and left-hander Brooks Raley. Struck, who led the Southern League with 14 victories last season, was reassigned to minor-league camp. Right-hander Robert Whitenack was optioned to Class AA Tennessee.

Fifty-three players remain in camp.


Manager Dale Sveum said shortstop Starlin Castro, who suffered a mild hamstring strain running out a grounder Feb. 27, will return and start Wednesday, with utility man Brent Lillibridge (groin) also scheduled to make his return that day off the bench.

◆ Third-base prospect Josh Vitters (quad) could return to action Thursday.

Contributing: Mark Potash

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