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Cubs name Jeff Samardzija their Opening Day starter

Jeff Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija

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Updated: March 10, 2013 8:17PM

MESA, Ariz. — The news Sunday that right-hander Matt Garza will open the season on the disabled list cleared the way for manager Dale Sveum to name right-hander Jeff Samardzija to be the Cubs’ Opening Day starter April 1 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

‘‘I’m excited,’’ said Samardzija, the man the Cubs are building their pitching staff around. ‘‘Going through some humbling baseball experiences in ’09 [as a rookie] and ’10 put a lot of things into perspective.

‘‘The best thing as an athlete is when you put in all your hard work to see positive gains from it. . . . I’m just excited and just ready to get this season going.’’

It’s a career first for Samardzija, who last season made a successful transition from reliever to starter. He was angry when he was shut down against his will because of an innings limit in September and will start this season where he finished last season — in Pittsburgh.

‘‘For what he did [in his] 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, who had a 2.58 ERA after the All-Star break last season, pitched a complete game against the Pirates 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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