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Opponent plunked by Jeff Samardzija dismisses notion Cubs pitcher is a headhunter

Chicago Cubs' Jeff Samardzijdelivers pitch HoustAstros batter first inning baseball game Wednesday May 23 2012 Houston. (AP Photo/PSullivan)

Chicago Cubs' Jeff Samardzija delivers a pitch to a Houston Astros batter in the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 23, 2012, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

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Updated: July 3, 2012 9:24AM

HOUSTON — Jeff Samardzija a headhunter? Come on.

The Cubs pitcher, teammates and even opponents on Wednesday refuted the vacuous suggestion by another Chicago newspaper that Samardzija is getting a reputation as ugly as that in the aftermath of the split-finger pitch that hit White Sox slugger Paul Konerko in the face on Friday.

“I don’t think he’s a head-hunter at all,’’ said Houston Astros third-baseman Chris Johnson, the one current Astro who has been hit by a pitch from Samardzija in his career. “It was a heater, too. That hurt.’’

Samardzija, who pitched another exceptional six innings in a losing effort Wednesday, the Cubs’ ninth loss in a row, laughed off the headhunter reference at first.

“It sounds a little loaded, doesn’t it?’’ he said with a smile before getting serious. “That’s not me at all. I respect the guys I play against. I know how hard it is to be successful in this game and the last thing that I want to do is gyp someone out of their career with something like that.’’

The pitch that hit Konerko wasn’t even a fastball. In fact, it was a 2-2 pitch.

“Two strikes? And off-speed?’’ Johnson said. “See ya’. I’ll go to first, no complaints. …

“I don’t think he’s that kind of guy at all. I don’t know why that would come out that he’s trying to hit people. … I’m on another team. I don’t know him very well. But I doubt any time in his big-league career he’s actually tried to hit somebody. I don’t know what’s gone on in his career, but I would be in shock if there was even one of those situations.’’

Samardzija, who admits pitching inside is part of his game, didn’t need so much as a knockdown pitch to handle the Astros for much of the 5-1 loss. The only two runs off him scored on a fluke two-out triple in the fourth on what initially looked like a sliding catch by right-fielder David DeJesus before second-baseman Darwin Barney also slid into the no-man’s-land play.

Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio wasn’t pleased with the characterization of his pitcher as somebody who plays loose with pitches at guys’ heads.

“It was a [expletive] off-speed pitch,’’ Bosio said. “They’ve already talked, and there’s no issues. There’s no merit to that.’’

Konerko said this week he told Samardzija, “No worries … And I told him that I knew it wasn’t intentional, not even close.’’


Bench coach Jamie Quirk said Carlos Marmol’s simulated game Wednesday went “very well,’’ and the injured reliever (hamstring) will make another minor-league rehab appearance. He is expected to be activated for the upcoming homestand that opens Monday.

◆ Steve Clevenger (oblique) caught four innings and batted twice in his second minor-league rehab start at AAA Iowa Wednesday and remains on track for a return to the roster by early next week.

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