Samardzija ‘blindsided’ by mentor Dempster walking away
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Sports Reporter February 17, 2014 5:48PM
Updated: February 17, 2014 6:32PM
MESA, Ariz. – Jeff Samardzija still hasn’t reached out to his friend Ryan Dempster since the ex-Cubs pitcher walked away Sunday from the final year of his contract with the Boston Red Sox, citing physical and family reasons.
“I’ll just give him his space,” Samardzija said. “I’m sure we’ll talk soon.”
Until then, the news is still sinking in. Samardzija and teammates learned of Dempster’s sudden announcement as they took the field for workouts Sunday morning.
“It’s tough to see. He’s such a great guy to me. Such a mentor,” said Samardzija, who went from Notre Dame football star in 2005 to raw rookie pitcher with the Cubs, under Dempster’s wing, in 2008, to Opening Day starter last year.
“I learned a lot from him. I came from being a football guy and not knowing much to working out with him every off-season, learning how to work as a baseball player and prepare as a baseball player,” Samardzija said. “He was there a lot for me, molding me, from beginning to end, whether it was how to pitch or how to go about your business when you’re not pitching.”
Samardzija said that despite regular contact with his friend, he had no idea Dempster was mulling a hiatus from pitching that will cost him $13.25 million this year and leave him a 37-year-old free agent in the winter if he decides to return to baseball.
“I was totally blindsided,” Samardzija said. “But Demp’s a smart guy. He doesn’t make any rash decisions so obviously it was calculated, and he understood that maybe it was his time. But from what it sounds like, it doesn’t seem like he’s totally done. He just maybe needs to take a break.
“I know how much of a competitor he is, so sitting around watching is probably not going to be the easiest pill to swallow. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back.”