Jeff Samardzija hoping Cubs find more consistency
BY TONI GINNETTI firstname.lastname@example.org July 14, 2013 8:55PM
St Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs
Updated: July 14, 2013 11:40PM
The Cubs reach the All-Star break a very different team than the one that left spring training. And they will be very different again in the second half as trades unfold.
But the players knew change would come if they didn’t perform well.
‘‘As a team, guys come and go, but we integrate pretty well,’’ pitcher Jeff Samardzija said. ‘‘We talked even in the spring that it would be a key for us to come together and pull for each other.
‘‘We were a little sloppy early in the year, but we’ve come together lately. I think we’ve shown how we can play baseball.’’
The Cubs were 10-16 in April, 13-14 in May and 12-15 in June. But they are 13-9 in their last 22 games, thanks to a relatively more stable bullpen and modestly better hitting.
‘‘I look for a lot more success in the second half,’’ said Samardzija, who is scheduled to start the first game Friday at Colorado. ‘‘We start out west, where we had some trouble, but hopefully we can right the ship. We have [Starlin Castro] and [Anthony] Rizzo coming around, and [Alfonso Soriano], and guys like myself for one can play better. That’s exciting.’’
Consistency remains the Cubs’ missing link, but Samardzija said it can come in the second half.
‘‘Teams at the top of the league day-in and day-out play consistently,’’ he said. ‘‘When their superstars have big games, then it’s a blowout. The days that Sori hits two 400-foot homers and Rizzo [homers], that’s when we win. But you have to pitch well and finish games out.
‘‘I know I’ve had a few rough ones lately, but I’ve been pretty happy with how I’ve pitched. If you look at my record, the first halves haven’t been my bread and butter. But I get more energized in the second half. Hopefully, the [opponents’] bats get a little slower in the heat by the end of the season, too.’’
Right-hander Scott Baker, who had Tommy John surgery in April 2012, struggled in his first trip to a mound Sunday for Class A Kane County. He threw 56 pitches in three innings, giving up four runs and six hits with a walk and two strikeouts against West Michigan. Cubs manager Dale Sveum said getting Baker back in a game environment was more important.
‘‘Today was a big step, to go against real hitters and a game atmosphere,’’ he said.
Baker will continue to pitch every fifth day.
Face of the future
Cubs prospect Arismendy Alcantara, 21, doesn’t get mentioned as often as Albert Almora or Jorge Soler. But the 5-10 infielder stood out at the All-Star Futures Game in New York, playing second base and hitting a home run.
At Class AA Tennessee, Alcantara is hitting .280 with 13 home runs and 23 doubles in 91 games.
Gillespie on board
Newly acquired outfielder Cole Gillespie joined the team, and reliever Henry Rodriguez was designated for assignment.