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Jeff Samardzija admits talk of new contract on his mind

Jeff Samardzij(6-10) huddles with catcher WelingtCastillo during sixth inning when Dodgers scored twice. | Brian Kersey/AP

Jeff Samardzija (6-10) huddles with catcher Welington Castillo during the sixth inning, when the Dodgers scored twice. | Brian Kersey/AP

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Updated: September 5, 2013 7:09AM



Jeff Samardzija has lost four of his last five decisions after the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Cubs 3-0 on Saturday at Wrigley Field.

But a decision with more significance will come in October.

That is when negotiations will resume in earnest to try to reach a long-term agreement with Samardzija, the pitcher Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer has said “you can see pitching the first game of a playoff series.’’

Samardzija has more than proven himself as a baseball player, putting to rest the doubters who thought former general manager Jim Hendry took too great a risk in giving the Notre Dame football star a five-year, $10 million contract — including a $2.5 million signing bonus.

Samardzija, 28, always has said it won’t be just about money. The native of Northwest Indiana already has made more than
$17.5 million from the Cubs despite being three years away from free-agent eligibility.

It’s safe to assume he wants the same thing management wants — to be part of a winning team that will contend for championships.

“He’s a guy we’d love to try to build around,’’ Hoyer said Saturday. “We love his makeup, his competitiveness, his swagger, his stuff.

“We’ve obviously had some discussions with him. We’ll continue those discussions in the offseason. Our hope is certainly to keep him here, and he knows that.

“We haven’t gotten to an agreement, and we don’t want to talk about the details of negotiations. But obviously it’s something that will be a priority when the season ends.’’

Samardzija’s future has been in the forefront with the trades of veteran pitcher Matt Garza and outfielder Alfonso Soriano. He is the last player remaining from the division-winning teams of 2007 and 2008, when he was a young reliever in his first major-league seasons.

He has said often that he wants to stay, and though that looks to be his future, the uncertainty of ­contracts is on his mind.

“To say it doesn’t weigh on you is a lie,’’ Samardzija said after Saturday’s loss. “But I’ve been pretty good about blanking it out, to tell you the truth. I try to go in start to start with the least amount of distractions as possible. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do. There’s still room for improvement.’’

Improvement for him means cutting down on walks. He issued five on Saturday, calling the worst the two he issued in leadoff situations in the second and sixth to Skip Schumaker.

The Dodgers didn’t score in the second, but got two in the sixth.

“If you look at my season, the days that have been really good, the walks are only one or two,’’ he said. “The days that have been just OK there have been four or five. I know that, so it’s an adjustment from start to start.’’

Samardzija has a 2.42 ERA in four starts since the All Star break (7 earned runs in 26 innings) and had a quality start Saturday, going six innings allowing three earned runs, with nine strikeouts.

But his team has struggled to score since Soriano’s departure.

“It’s hard to replace that kind of guy who can carry you for a week or two,’’ manager Dale Sveum said.

But he also knows Samardzija can be an equalizer on the mound when he has control of his fastball, which he didn’t have on Saturday.

“The fastball control will dictate every outing, and he didn’t have it today,’’ Sveum said.



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