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Cubs’ Jeff Samardzija to start Opening Day

Chicago Cubs' Jeff Samardzijthrows before an exhibitispring training baseball game against San Francisco Giants Sunday Feb. 24 2013 MesAriz. (AP

Chicago Cubs' Jeff Samardzija throws before an exhibition spring training baseball game against the San Francisco Giants Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

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Updated: March 3, 2013 12:20PM

MESA, Ariz. – It was probably the inevitable choice regardless, but when Matt Garza’s latest setback eliminated the final doubt, Jeff Samardzija was named the Cubs’ Opening Day starter by manager Dale Sveum on Sunday.

It’s a career first for the former Notre Dame football star, who last season made a successful transition from bullpen pitcher to powerful starting pitcher – an angry one by Sept. 8 when he was shut down against his will because of an innings limit.

“For what he did that last eight starts, and in that last start in Pittsburgh, that’s the kind of guy that’s an Opening Day starter,” Sveum said. “He’s that guy you want out there, the guy that had that intensity [Sept. 8] knowing that was his last game.”

Samardzija closed out a 2.58 second half with a complete game in Pittsburgh that night, striking out nine in a 4-3 victory.

“He’s a guy that players rally around because of his work ethic, his bulldog mentality when he’s on the mound,’’ Sveum said. “It’s an obvious choice really.”

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