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Cubs don’t need to baby Jeff Samardzija: Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright

Updated: June 16, 2012 8:18AM

ST. LOUIS — Plan? Plan? Jeff Samardzija doesn’t need a stinking plan, Adam Wainwright said. Just give him the ball and let him go.

‘‘The more times he takes the ball, the better he’ll be in preparation for future seasons,’’ Wainwright, the St. Louis Cardinals’ ace, said of the Cubs’ starter.

Samardzija, a pitcher the Cubs now see as a key building block near the front of their rotation, shouldn’t be ‘‘babied’’ or put on rigid pitch limits, Wainwright said.

And for those who say you can’t go from 80 innings of relief to 200 innings of starting in one season?

‘‘Yeah, I did it,’’ Wainwright said.

In fact, nobody has done it more effectively in recent years than Wainwright, who went from 75
innings of top-flight bullpen work in 2006 (3.12 ERA) to 202 innings and 14 victories as a starter in 2007.

One difference between Wainwright then and Samardzija now is that Wainwright had pitched 182
innings at Class AAA the season before joining the bullpen.

Even as a minor-league starter, Samardzija never reached 142
innings, part of why the Cubs’ brain trust has devised a plan that mostly involves watching his pitch counts and giving him extra rest between starts when the schedule allows.

Not necessary, Wainwright said.

‘‘What you have to realize is that your first season for a starter is very important,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s going to be ups and downs. Your arm’s going to feel dead at times. It’s going to lose its life sometimes, you’ll feel great other times. There’s peaks and valleys. But I think it’s very important for a starter to go through that. It’s great conditioning for future seasons. There’s lessons you learn when you don’t feel your greatest, on how to get outs. You have to find a way. And I think sometimes when you’re taken out of that and babied a little bit too much, you don’t learn those valuable lessons.’’

In Samardzija’s case, Wainwright said, the former football All-American is especially athletic and big.

‘‘And he’s got an amazing arm,’’ said Wainwright, who has lost twice to Samardzija this season.

‘‘I’d take a big guy whose body can probably withstand a lot more pressure than maybe a little guy could.’’

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