Ah – many questions surround the current status of Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija. The Cubs would love for Samardzija to step up as an everyday starter in 2010. But it’s unclear if he has what it takes right now to make that jump.
After a solid 2008 as a rookie – 26 games, 1-0 record, 1 save, 3 blown saves, 2.28 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and 25 K’s in 27 2/3 innings – the Cubs thought that they would be able to count on him for a lot more in 2009. But the opposite was true. Samardzija struggled with his command and with his ability to keep runners off base. While hitters batted just .226 against him 2008, that number jumped to .329 in 2009. Not good. Samradzija bounced back and forth between the Cubs and Triple-A Iowa during the 2009 MLB schedule. He pitched 34 2/3 innings in just 20 appearances, but gave up 46 hits and 26 ER during that span. His 7.53 ERA and 1.76 WHIP were major disappointments for Manager Lou Pinella, GM Jim Hendry and Cubs fans alike.
The Cubs suggested that he pitch in the Mexican League this winter to get in some extra work. It looked like the added throwing paid off to some extent. He started 5 games with Mexicali and pitched 24 innings. He had command of his pitches (8 walks to 22 strikeouts) and he gave up just 6 earned runs. Sure the competition isn’t as good, but at least he was able to focus better and work on his offspeed pitches that could help him at the major league level in 2010.
The Cubs will give Samardzija a chance to compete for a starting position in 2010. If he doesn’t make the top 5 at the start of the season, the Cubs will have to decide whether it’s better to send him down to Triple-A Iowa where he can continue his work as a starter, or whether he would be more valuable to the Cubs coming out of the bullpen. Samardzija clearly has the talent, or the Cubs wouldn’t have wooed him away from football and the NFL when they signed him after he graduated from Notre Dame in 2007. Now he just needs someone to help him “make things click” in order for him to perform consistently at the major league level at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field.