Jeff Samardzija makes Cubs’ rotation; Randy Wells sent to minors
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org March 29, 2012 12:28PM
Jeff Samardzija (left) beat out Randy Wells, who will make $2.705 million in the minors. | Getty Images Photos
READY OR NOT
The Cubs set their Opening Day roster, except for the bullpen as they seek outside help over the next week.
Starting rotation (in order)
Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, Chris Volstad, Paul Maholm.
Geovany Soto, Steve Clevenger.
Bryan LaHair, Darwin Barney, Ian Stewart, Starlin Castro, Jeff Baker, Blake DeWitt.
Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, David DeJesus, Reed Johnson, Joe Mather.
Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood, James Russell, Rafael Dolis. (Rodrigo Lopez and Shawn Camp also appear to be in, pending injury or trade).
Other bullpen candidates: Manny Corpas, Frankie de la Cruz, Lendy Castillo.
Updated: May 1, 2012 8:20AM
MESA, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija knows what Randy Wells is going through but can’t do much about it.
Unfortunately for Wells, he can say the same thing about Samardzija.
When the Cubs set most of their roster Thursday, Samardzija learned he was in the opening rotation for the first time in his career, as he and most everybody else expected.
Wells, a three-year veteran of the Cubs’ rotation, was sent to Class AAA Iowa as the sixth starter in the surprise decision of the day. He was thought to have a good chance of getting the long-reliever role.
‘‘It was obviously a shock,’’ said Wells, who didn’t give up a run in just three Cactus League appearances, including one official start. ‘‘I don’t know [if it was enough of a look]. I can’t really force my way in the lineup. They obviously had a plan, and they have a direction they want to go.
‘‘Usually when this stuff happens, you’ve had a rough spring or you haven’t been pitching well. … I’m not going to sit here and lie and be the guy that says I’m not disappointed, because I am. It is what it is.
‘‘I just have to go down and work hard and continue to get better and hopefully when they need me, come up and be ready.’’
The Cubs’ rotation, in order, to start the season: Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Samardzija, Chris Volstad and left-hander Paul Maholm.
The position-player roster was set, with lefty-hitting Steve Clevenger beating out Welington Castillo for the backup catcher job and versatile Joe Mather winning the last bench spot, joining Jeff Baker, Reed Johnson and Blake DeWitt.
The bullpen remains uncertain, with one, two or even three spots in flux, depending on the Cubs’ efforts to add from the outside, ideally a left-hander.
Samardzija, the former All-America wide receiver who nailed down his starting spot with six scoreless innings against a mostly left-handed Cleveland Indians lineup Wednesday, said making the rotation ranks ‘‘at the top’’ of his athletic career because ‘‘I had to earn this.’’
‘‘I left a bad taste in my mouth the first couple of years, knowing that that’s what I wanted to do and came up short,’’ he said. ‘‘That wasn’t fun by any means. I definitely didn’t want to do that again and go through that again. You don’t know how many of these opportunities you’re going to get to start.’’
General manager Jed Hoyer said the decisions weren’t a reflection on Wells’ performance as much as how well Samardzija and Volstad pitched. The club also likes Wells as the sixth starter it inevitably will need instead of as a long reliever.
At $2.705 million, Wells is the Cubs’ highest-paid minor-leaguer this year.
The Cubs already had heard from teams regarding Wells’ availability, and one National League official speculated Thursday that the Cubs would be willing to move him.
But Hoyer emphasized the importance of pitching depth when asked about his willingness to trade a starter.
‘‘Trading out of [that depth] can be complicated but necessary sometimes, too, if you can acquire a piece you need,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘We definitely don’t take having depth lightly, but I’m sure there will be inquiries.’’
Asked if he would welcome a trade, Wells said, ‘‘I don’t know. It hasn’t been presented to me. So I can’t really talk about that. Right now I’ve just got to focus on going to Iowa and getting on a roll.
‘‘It’s a point in your career where you’ve got to buckle down and you know what you want to do. And maybe it’s a wake-up call to see that it’s not that easy to stay here. So you go to work that much harder, and hopefully next time I get called up this will be the last time I’ll have to deal with this.’’