Jeff Samardzija closes in on spot in Cubs’ rotation
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com March 28, 2012 7:42PM
Jeff Samardzija pitched six scoreless innings against the Indians on Wednesday and struck out the side in the fifth. | Christian Petersen~Getty Images
Updated: April 30, 2012 9:45AM
MESA, Ariz. — That whoosh-whoosh-whoosh and whoosh noise coming from the vicinity of HoHoKam Park on Wednesday afternoon was probably just Jeff Samardzija striking out the side in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians.
Followed by the sound of him shutting the door on the starting rotation battle in Cubs camp.
“I feel pretty confident, man,’’ Samardzija said after his six scoreless innings against the Indians a few hours ahead of decision time by team brass. “Just looking at my camp as a whole, there’s really not much I can say [negatively] other than that last outing. I feel great. Obviously, we’ll see what happens. I’m really not too worried about it.’’
After a poor outing against the Colorado Rockies on Friday, Samardzija needed a competitive start to back up what had otherwise been a stellar spring. In his four starts other than against the Rockies (four innings, 10 hits, seven runs), he went 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA and 14 strikeouts against one walk in 16 innings.
“Performance is everything,’’ manager Dale Sveum said. “We’ve got decisions to make [Wednesday night], and part of his performance [Wednesday] will have something to do with those decisions.’’
Samardzija, who turned a career corner with a strong season in the bullpen last year, showed a little of everything against the Indians: getting three outs in a four-pitch span in the second, striking out all three batters in the fifth, and — after exerting himself with a triple in the bottom of the fifth — coming back to get three consecutive ground-ball outs in the sixth after a leadoff single.
Samardzija and Chris Volstad are expected to officially be awarded the two openings in the rotation Thursday, joining Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Paul Maholm.
That leaves Randy Wells as the probable long reliever, with Rodrigo Lopez likely being sent to AAA — despite good springs by both.
Kerry Wood, who has tapered back his pitching regimen the last two weeks, had a bullpen session Tuesday that went well enough to move up his next scheduled appearance two days to Thursday.
Wood, whose plan was to begin accelerating toward the season again this week, has the chance to get three appearances instead of two before camp breaks. He hasn’t pitched in a game since March 18.
Randy Wells had his scheduled relief appearance Wednesday scrapped by the staff. He’ll keep his scheduled Sunday start, during which Dale Sveum plans to get Wells stretched out to “as many pitches as we possibly can.’’
◆ The Cubs might let the final spot in their bullpen play out for a few more days, but veteran Manny Corpas, who hasn’t pitched a regular-season game since undergoing Tommy John surgery Sept. 8, 2010, has pitched into favored status. “His last three innings have been as good as anybody’s in camp, if not anybody else’s camp,’’ Sveum said.