Jeff Samardzija tells Cubs’ front office to butt out of pitch-count issue
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter May 7, 2014 10:37PM
Updated: June 10, 2014 6:39AM
When Jeff Samardzija looks back at his Cubs career after getting settled somewhere else — maybe as soon as August — days such as Tuesday and Wednesday won’t be among his fondest memories.
The Cubs’ lame-duck ace didn’t call anyone out by name, but he made it clear he wasn’t happy with the front office for raising eyebrows over his career-high 126 pitches during a nine-inning gem Monday against the Sox.
“No. Absolutely not,” he said when asked if he understood upper management’s potential concern, “because this is an on-field issue for uniformed personnel. That’s all there is to it. I’m a grown man. I’m 29. I’m not a prospect or 22. I feel good, and I’m grown up enough and responsible enough to understand when I can go out and when I can’t go.
“I’ve earned my right in athletics to be able to understand my body and where I’m at.”
Whether he wants to scoff at the theoretical science of pitch counts and injury risk, Samardzija seemed at least to offer a glimpse into a relationship with the front office that has led to the guy with the second-best ERA in baseball heading to the trading block after long-dead extension talks that have gone nowhere in nearly two years.
Not that there are bad feelings or ill will between Samardzija and the Theo Epstein-Jed Hoyer front office.
But differences in how they look at the team and the game are clear — as clear as the differences in their opinions of his value in failed contract talks. Even as the pitching market has shot up with Homer Bailey getting $105 million.
The public responses this week to the pitch-count/injury-risk thing just offered a data point for the differences.
“I don’t really know how it was responded to by the front office. I didn’t hear anything or read anything,” he said, “but just from what it sounds like, there was a response. For me, it’s just something that we need to handle here in the clubhouse.
“If [manager Rick Renteria] didn’t like how many pitches I threw, then he’ll come up to me and tell me, ‘Hey, Jeff, that might not happen again, so enjoy it while you can,’ which I’m fine with.
“But that’s something we need to talk about, and I’m a grown-up; I can handle news like that, saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to keep you at 85, 90 next time, or anything like that, whatever it may be.
“But I trust Ricky, and Ricky is a very honest man. He’s going to shoot me straight, and that’s all I ask for because he’s going to get the same from me.”
On Samardzija’s pitch count Monday, Hoyer said during different interviews Tuesday that “I don’t love it,” and that when he walked two guys in the ninth it “raised eyebrows.” He also said the pitch-count issue is an inexact science at best, and that Samardzija didn’t look as if he threw many stressful pitches — something of more concern than sheer numbers.
“It’s different for everybody,” Samardzija said. “Do I want to go out and throw 128 pitches every time? Absolutely not. Hell, no. I do not. But there’s times when it calls for it. And there’s times when it needs to get done and someone’s got to do it.
“It’s unfortunate we’re getting to the point in the game where this is becoming news, because it shouldn’t be. It should be the other way around. ‘Why’d this guy only throw 75 pitches and then come out of the game after five innings? What’s that about?’
“I just think the light’s [being shined] in the wrong direction.”